Australia medical marijuana turns corner as patient count surpasses 2,000

Australia’s medical cannabis market is gaining momentum, as approvals for the medicine surpassed 2,000 for the first time.

The country saw 568 medical cannabis approvals in November, a 42% increase on-month, bringing the total number of approvals for the first 11 months of 2018 to 2,072, according to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which regulates medical marijuana in Australia.

The new data shows that the country’s streamlined processes for medical marijuana applications is producing positive results.

Russell Harding, founder and CEO of MedReleaf Australia, said general practitioners are becoming familiar with the recently established TGA Portal to streamline the patient approval process.

Doctors are also becoming better educated about MMJ and “are more prepared to assist patients to gain access to this new therapy,” he said.

MedReleaf Australia is an investee of MedReleaf Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Alberta, Canada-based Aurora Cannabis.

The TGA recently opened up cannabis as a treatment for any medical condition, provided it meets certain prescribing guidelines, creating a much larger potential market in the country.

Medical cannabis approvals had stagnated before the introduction of a single application process on March 2, 2018, which made it easier for doctors to prescribe MMJ through the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s website.

The number of patients grew to more than 1,000 in a matter of months.

A report from New Frontier Data indicates Australia will have 330,000 patients by 2025.

“The key now is to apply further pressure on global pricing – achieved by driving the right economies of scale with producers, suppliers and manufacturers,” said Michael Horsfall, president & CEO of PUF Ventures Australia and Terra Hemp Co.

“This will get the product to a price where it is affordable as a real option to the people who need it most – the patients.”

Prices have been prohibitive for many patients in Australia due to the country’s reliance on imports.

PUF Ventures Australia is majority-owned by Vancouver, British Columbia-based Puf Ventures.

“What is more exciting to the Australian market is that two-thirds of the global population sits just offshore in Asia,” Horsfall said.

“Momentum is building through Asia, and Australian companies have the right conditions, governance, reputation and relationships to take advantage.”

Fleta Solomon, managing director of Little Green Pharma, a medical cannabis company in West Australia, said the nation’s MMJ industry has turned a corner.

Little Green Pharma was the first Australian company to locally grow and produce medicinal cannabis products for sale to Australian patients.

“The No. 1 factor, in addition to more and more patients requesting cannabinoid treatment from their doctor,” Fleta said, “is that general practitioners can now prescribe much more easily and don’t need a specialist to support patient applications.”

Matt Lamers can be reached at [email protected]

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