Since cannabis was legalised for medicinal purposes in Australia in 2016, the number of patients being prescribed medicinal cannabis treatments has increased significantly with each year. As of May 2022, more than 248,000 medical cannabis prescriptions had been approved over the five years prior – 85% of which were given out since January 2020.
Despite its rise in popularity and a slow downward trend in pricing, medicinal cannabis treatments and services still remain inaccessible to many who cannot afford the costs that come with them. On top of the costs of the medicinal cannabis itself, many patients face additional consultation, application, prescription and dispensing fees that place product cost of these treatments even further out of reach.
In an Australian Cannabis as Medicine Survey published in 2022, only 24% of prescribed cannabis patients agreed that the current model for accessing medicinal cannabis was easy or straightforward. A barrier identified by most respondents was the cost of accessing medicinal cannabis, with an average monthly cost of $278. This number is down 24.86% from $370 in 2018. This is despite a slight increase in patients’ average daily cannabinoid dose, suggesting that decreasing medication costs are driving this trend. Following the increase in the average daily cannabinoid doses, the vast majority of Australian patients are still taking lower-than-average cannabinoid doses.
Given the seriousness of the symptoms and medical conditions that medicinal cannabis is prescribed to treat – from mental illness, to chronic pain, cancer and non-cancer pain to epilepsy, chemotherapy symptoms and conditions requiring palliative care – it is imperative that the high costs of these treatments be addressed to ensure they are as accessible as possible for the patients who need them.
While there is still work to be done, the good news is that the monthly costs associated with being a medicinal cannabis patient are beginning to slowly trend downward. The rise in prescriptions, available treatments, medical cannabis manufacturers, medicines and clinics offering medicinal cannabis services are all contributing to a slow reduction in patient costs, while the listing of a medicinal cannabis treatment on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to help treat a rare form of childhood epilepsy may set a precedent for other potentially life-changing treatments to follow suit.
Individual factors impacting the cost of medical cannabis treatment
The exact amount of money you are likely to spend on your medicinal cannabis treatments will vary from patient to patient, and will largely depend on a range of individual factors. Some of these include:
- Your condition and the reason for treatment.
- The severity of your symptoms.
- The type and number of treatments required.
- Your required medication dose and how often you consume medicinal cannabis products.
- Your individual tolerance, metabolism, and endocannabinoid system function.
- Your goals for treatment.
All of these factors will influence the type, amount, dosage and, therefore the cost of the medicinal cannabis treatments prescribed to you.
Other factors which may impact the cost of medical cannabis treatments can include:
- Which doctor or cannabis clinic you go to, and whether they charge additional medication dispensing fees, TGA application fees, or above RRP for medical cannabis products.
- Whether you have private health insurance and whether your insurance provider covers medical cannabis treatments.
- Whether your (or your child’s) prescribed medication is listed on the PBS.
So far, just one medicinal cannabis treatment has been listed on the PBS to assist in the treatment of patients with Dravet syndrome, which is a rare form of childhood epilepsy. This listing provides price relief to just over 100 patients each year who would otherwise have paid more than $24,000 per year for the treatment. Under this scheme, patients can access the medication for just $41.30 per script, or $6.60 for concession card holders. The oral cannabidiol (CBD) oil treatment must be prescribed by a neurologist and as an adjunctive therapy (as a third-line treatment with at least two other antiepileptic medicines).
According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the listing of this medication on the PBS is thanks to the strength of the evidence supporting the use of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of certain types of epilepsies. As greater research and clinical trials emerge supporting the benefits of medical cannabis in treating a range of other chronic conditions, we may see more and more treatments being listed on the PBS. This would make medicinal cannabis treatments far more affordable and accessible to vulnerable patients all over Australia.
It’s a good idea to discuss treatment pricing during your consultation with your prescribing doctor. Your doctor may be able to take your budget and individual situation into account when selecting which medication/s to prescribe you.
Political and economic factors impacting cost of medical cannabis in Australia
In Australia, medicinal cannabis treatments are classified as highly regulated, Schedule 8 medicines. This means there are strict legal requirements that medical cannabis manufacturers and distributors must follow – which can drive up the cost of these medications.
The price of medicinal cannabis in Australia tends to be driven up by:
- Overseas importing fees.
- Strict storage requirements for cannabis treatments.
- Testing requirements for treatment quality, safety, ingredients and efficacy.
- Distribution and shipping costs to pharmacies.
- Other regulatory requirements and supply chain costs.
Medicinal cannabis price changes over time
The price of medicinal cannabis in Australia has slowly been trending downwards since its legalisation in 2016. FreshLeaf’s most recent Australian Medicinal Cannabis Market Patient, Product and Pricing Analysis (2021) reported that retail pricing, wholesale pricing and patient average monthly spend have all been slowly decreasing as medicinal cannabis prescriptions rise.
What are the costs involved in getting a medical cannabis prescription with Polln?
At Polln, we believe in full transparency when it comes to our pricing. All of our consultations are designed to be as accessible as possible, with no hidden surprises or additional application or dispensing fees down the track.
Polln consultation fees vary depending on the type and length of your consultation. First-time Polln patients will pay $110 for an Initial Consultation, which includes 30 minutes of dedicated one-on-one time with one of our qualified doctors, all of whom have completed additional training in medicinal cannabis prescribing. This covers the cost of your consultation where your doctor will write you a prescription, if you are deemed eligible for cannabis treatments.
Returning Polln patients will pay either $49 for a Short Follow Up Consultation (15 minutes) or $75 for a Long Follow Up Consultation (30 minutes), depending on how much time you need to spend with your practitioner.
Learn more about our consultation types by visiting our Pricing page.
We heard what medical cannabis patients in Australia had to say about having to pay additional dispensing fees and being charged inconsistently and above recommended retail pricing when trying to access their prescribed medications.
So, as part of our commitment to transparency and care at Polln, you’ll never pay dispensing fees or be charged above RRP for your treatments. Guaranteed.
Learn more about our Polln Price Guarantee by visiting our Pricing page.
The cost of any medications prescribed by our doctors will vary depending on your condition and what sort of treatments your doctor decides are best suited to you.
Due to government regulations, we are unable to advertise any medications or their prices on our website. Any prescribed medications and their costs will be discussed with your doctor during your consultation.
Depending on your individual needs and your treatment format, dosage requirements, and brand, you may pay anywhere from $150 to $3,650 per month for your cannabis treatments, with the latest research on average monthly spend for Australian medicinal cannabis patients currently sitting at $2784.
At Polln, we are committed to transparency – so you'll never pay dispensing fees or be charged above RRP for your treatments as part of our Polln Price Guarantee.
Following your consultation, you will be able to see your prescriptions in your patient dashboard. Our new online ordering portal makes it simpler for Polln patients to access their medication when they need it. The details, including cost, of each medication will be clearly stated under the ‘Prescriptions’ tab so that you can choose which medication you wish to order.
During your consultation, your Polln doctor will work with you to build a treatment plan that will work best for you and your condition, and, where possible, will always take your budget and personal circumstances into consideration before prescribing any treatments.
Free medical cannabis eligibility screening
A great way to find out if you might be eligible for medicinal cannabis access before committing to the costs of a consultation is to take our free eligibility quiz.
Our eligibility quiz is designed to help you find out if you might qualify for a medical cannabis prescription while also helping you prepare for your first consultation with one of our Polln doctors.
Take our eligibility quiz today.
- MacPhail SL, Bedoya-Pérez MA, Cohen R, Kotsirilos V, McGregor IS, Cairns EA. Medicinal Cannabis Prescribing in Australia: An Analysis of Trends Over the First Five Years. Front Pharmacol. 2022 May 10;13:885655. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2022.885655. PMID: 35620292; PMCID: PMC9127064.
- FreshLeaf Analytics, Australian Medicinal Cannabis Market Patient, Product and Pricing Analysis H2 2021
- How much does medical cannabis cost in Australia? (n.d.). GreenChoices. https://www.greenchoices.com.au/faqs/how-much-does-medical-cannabis-cost-in-australia
- Department of Health Victoria 2022, Frequently asked questions about medicinal cannabis, https://www.health.vic.gov.au/drugs-and-poisons/frequently-asked-questions-about-medicinal-cannabis