Once you have a medical cannabis prescription in Australia, you might be wondering how often you’ll be able to access your medication? Or how much medication you would be prescribed each time. At Polln, we’re here to help you understand the ins and outs of medicinal cannabis treatments, including how medical cannabis prescriptions work.
Online medical cannabis clinics actually follow the same regulations as in-person medicinal cannabis clinics. Pharmacy dispensing limits help doctors and pharmacists manage the amount of medication patients have access to at any one time, while dispensing intervals help ensure that patients are able to maintain their medication treatment plan safely without gaps.
Learn more about dispensing limits and Intervals for medicinal cannabis and why they’re so important for patients, doctors, and pharmacies. Let’s get started.
What are Dispensing Limits for Medical Cannabis?
Dispensing limits are the maximum amount of a medication that can be dispensed by a pharmacy in a single medical cannabis prescription. These limits are set by your doctor and guided by the government’s classification system to make sure that patients can safely access their medications while also reducing potential risks, like misuse or addiction. For medical cannabis prescription in Australia, dispensing limits are influenced by a system of scheduling. Scheduling is a classification system created by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) that controls how medicines can be made available to the public.
The TGA classifies medicinal cannabis as either Schedule 8, Schedule 4, or Schedule 3, depending on its active chemical compounds — the percentages of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) or CBD (cannabidiol) — and its risk potential in regards to misuse or addiction.
Depending on the type of medicinal cannabis you are prescribed by your doctor, your medication could be classified as:
- Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis: These medications are considered controlled drugs and are highly regulated. Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis products usually contain high levels of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, and as such, they are seen to have the highest level of risk in terms of addiction or misuse.
The dispensing limits and intervals for Schedule 4 medicinal cannabis will depend on your conditions and healthcare needs.
- Schedule 4 medicinal cannabis: These are prescription-only medications that are less tightly controlled than Schedule 8 medications. These typically contain low levels of THC (less than 2%).
The dispensing limits and intervals for Schedule 4 medicinal cannabis will depend on your conditions and your healthcare needs
- Schedule 3 medicinal cannabis products: These products are the least controlled and have the lowest potential for misuse and dependence. Schedule 3 medicinal cannabis products typically contain only CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis.
The maximum recommended daily dose of CBD is 150mg or less, in packs containing no more than 30 days’ supply and packed in blister packaging or in a container fitted with a child-resistant closure. People prescribed Schedule 3 CBD products must be over 18 years of age.
As of February 2022, doctors can prescribe a Schedule 8 treatment to non-drug dependent patients without having to get a specialised permit from the Victorian Department of Health.
Factors That Can Influence Dispensing Limits of Medical Cannabis
Many things can influence your dispensing limit of medicinal cannabis. These factors include:
- Your health condition: The dispensing limit and schedule of your medication will depend on your health condition and the severity of your symptoms. For example, someone with a chronic condition that requires a higher percentage of THC compounds may need a higher dispensing limit and schedule 8 medications.
- Your previous response to treatment: If you’re not responding well to a low dose of medicinal cannabis, then your doctor may increase your dose/dispensing limit. Similarly, your doctor may also reduce your dose if you’re having unwanted side effects.
- Your age and weight: Similar to many other medications, your age and weight may have an influence on the way you respond to medicinal cannabis. In some cases, younger people or people with lower body weights may be prescribed a lower dispensing limit than older people or people with a higher body weight.
Advantages of Dispensing Limits in Medical Cannabis Treatment
Even though dispensing limits can sometimes feel inconvenient, they serve as an important tool in helping manage the safe and responsible use of medicinal cannabis across Australia. Dispensing limits can help you monitor your medical routine more safely and effectively. Here are some benefits of implementing dispensing limits for medicinal cannabis:
- Improved Therapeutic Efficacy: Medicinal cannabis, like any medication, is most effective when taken according to the prescribed dosing regimen. Sticking to dispensing limits and intervals ensures that you receive the appropriate amount of active compounds to achieve its therapeutic effects.
- Consistency of Treatment: Medicinal cannabis is often used to manage chronic conditions such as pain, epilepsy, or nausea. Consistent dosing means you can maintain stable levels of cannabinoids in your body, providing you with a more reliable and steady therapeutic effect.
- Minimization of Side Effects: Adhering to dispensing limits can help minimise the risk of unwanted side effects associated with cannabis use. Overconsumption or inconsistent dosing may lead to adverse effects such as dizziness, nausea, anxiety, or cognitive impairment.
- Avoiding Tolerance and Dependence: Regular and controlled dosing can help reduce the likelihood of developing tolerance, where the body becomes less responsive to the effects of cannabis over time. Additionally, adhering to recommended intervals can help you reduce your risk of developing dependence or addiction.
- More Accurate Health Monitoring: Adhering to your prescribed dosing limits and intervals allows your healthcare provider to collect accurate information about your response to treatment. This is essential for monitoring your progress and making informed decisions about any potential adjustments to your treatment plan.
Remember: it’s important to communicate openly with your medicinal cannabis healthcare providers and pharmacists, especially if you have concerns or have experienced any difficulties adhering to the recommended dispensing limits and intervals. By working together patients and healthcare professionals can optimise the therapeutic benefits of medicinal cannabis and minimise any potential risks.
What Are Medical Cannabis Dispensing Intervals?
Dispensing intervals refer to how often medications can be supplied to patients. There aren’t any set rules for dispensing intervals that apply uniformly across Australia for medical cannabis.
Dispensing intervals can vary based on several factors, including the schedule of the medical cannabis product, the patient's medical condition, the prescribing doctor's judgement, and local regulations.
How Do Prescribers Decide on Medical Cannabis Dispensing Intervals?
How a doctor decides on dispensing intervals for a medicinal cannabis patient depends on several factors. Healthcare authorities and regulatory bodies may provide guidelines or recommendations for appropriate dispensing intervals, but these are often adaptable to individual patient situations — after all, what works for one patient’s condition isn’t always guaranteed to work for someone else.
At Polln, we personalise prescriptions depending on the needs of each patient. Our dispensing limits and intervals will depend on many factors, including a patient’s health condition, symptoms, or even their location. As rural and regional patients often face a much longer wait time for their medications, reducing ordering intervals can allow them to avoid medication gaps.
The Importance of Adhering to Medical Cannabis Dispensing Limits and Intervals
Dispensing Limits and Intervals are an important part of a safe and successful medicinal cannabis treatment plan. By adhering to a consistent dosing regime, you can help ensure that your medicinal cannabis treatment can maintain its therapeutic effects and help your doctor better monitor your treatment and health outcomes.
Remember: medicinal cannabis can be either a Schedule 3, 4 or 8 medicine. So as a controlled drug, it’s even more important for patients to adhere to their set dispensing limits and intervals.
Medicinal Cannabis Dispensing Process FAQ:
How Regularly Can You Fill Your Scripts?
There is no single answer for how often you can fill your medicinal cannabis script. The frequency in which you can fill your medicinal cannabis prescriptions will vary depending on your personal situation and your health condition.
The Wrap Up
Pharmacy dispensing limits and intervals are an important part of ensuring a safe and effective medicinal cannabis treatment plan. Dispensing limits are influenced by the medication schedules of your medicinal cannabis type (Schedules 8, 4, and 3) which represent the percentage of THC vs. CBD present in your medication.
Pharmacy dispensing limits and intervals will be tailored to your healthcare needs by your doctor and are based on your condition, symptoms, and location. If you have any questions about your dispensing limits and intervals, we suggest discussing this with your doctor in your next consultation or reaching out to our friendly Care Team at email@example.com.
National Prescribing Service (NPS) MedicineWise. Medicinal cannabis: 7 questions from pharmacists. https://www.nps.org.au/assets/Medicinal-cannabis-7-questions-from-pharmacists.pdf. Published May 2020. Accessed August 15, 2023.
Pharmacy Guild of Australia. Medicinal Cannabis. https://www.guild.org.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/115114/Medicinal-Cannabis.pdf. Published June 2021. Accessed August 15, 2023.
Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Scheduling Basics: Medicines and Chemicals in Australia. https://www.tga.gov.au/scheduling-basics-medicines-and-chemicals-australia. Published 2023. Accessed August 15, 2023.
Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Scheduling decisions: Notice of final decision to amend or not amend the current poisons standard for cannabidiol. https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/publication/scheduling-decisions-final/notice-final-decision-amend-or-not-amend-current-poisons-standard-cannabidiol. Published December 15 2020. Accessed August 15, 2023.
Victoria State Government. Medicinal Cannabis: Information for Health Professionals. https://www.health.vic.gov.au/drugs-and-poisons/medicinal-cannabis-information-for-health-professionals. Published October 25 2022. Accessed August 15, 2023.
Victoria State Government. Schedule 8 Permits and Notifications. https://www.health.vic.gov.au/drugs-and-poisons/schedule-8-permits-and-notifications. Reviewed 14 July 2023. Reviewed 14 July 2023.
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