With over 450 medicinal cannabis products available in Australia in 2023, whether you’re an experienced medicinal cannabis patient or completely new to this method of treatment, it can be difficult to wrap your head around all of the different medications available on the market.
When looking for a medicinal cannabis clinic or doctor, it’s important to know that some clinics or doctors only prescribe a limited range, or sometimes even a specific brand, of medications or medicinal cannabis products. When doctors have a choice over what medications they prescribe, it ensures that patients receive appropriate, unbiased, and effective treatments that are best suited to their needs and concerns.
What Types of Medicinal Cannabis Products are Available in Australia?
In Australia, the following types of medicinal cannabis products are currently available and permitted for prescription under the Therapeutic Goods Administration(TGA):
Dried medicinal cannabis flower is the most classic form of medicinal cannabis that is consumed via vaporisation – more on this below.
Medicinal Cannabis oils are liquid extracts that are derived from the cannabis plant. They can be ingested orally or sublingually. More information on the different ways to consume medicinal cannabis below.
Wafers are small tablet-like medications that are administered sublingually (dissolved under the tongue).
Capsules are medicinal cannabis products that are enclosed in a capsule and designed to be consumed in oral dosage forms.
Topical products such as creams and gels are products that are formulated with cannabinoids (such as CBD and THC) and are designed to be applied directly to the skin.
Sprays are another form of medicinal cannabis that are designed to be consumed orally. Sprays are intended to provide both precise and controlled dosing of medicinal cannabis.
Also known as vape carts, vape cartridges are pre-filled cartridges designed for use with a vape pen.
How Do I Know What Medicinal Cannabis Product Is Right For Me?
Because medicinal cannabis works differently for everyone and has different onset, reactions and response times for each individual, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
A doctor at a product-agnostic clinic will work closely with you, evaluating your condition and needs, to determine what medicinal cannabis product will be most effective for you. At a product-agnostic clinic, your doctor can prescribe any legal medications available in Australia for medical purposes.
What Are the Different Ways Medicinal Cannabis Treatments Can Be Administered?
Medicinal cannabis can be delivered to the body in a number of different ways, depending on the individual needs of a patient. Each method will impact how the cannabis compounds are absorbed, distributed, and metabolised around the body differently.
Five approved methods for consumption of medicinal cannabis in Australia include:
Inhalation, including vaping, is the process of heating the cannabis plant at a high heat and allowing the cannabinoids and terpenes to be released in the form of a vapour, which is then inhaled. Smoking medical cannabis would also fall under this category, however smoking is not a recommended consumption method, more about that here.
Ingestion involves the oral consumption of any medicinal cannabis treatment, such as edibles, tinctures, oils, capsules, and extracts.
The sublingual method involves placing the medicinal cannabis treatment, such as a wafer, lozenge, tablet, oil, or spray, under the tongue. This allows for the active ingredients to be absorbed directly into the vessels of your tongue and bypass the digestive system.
The topical application of medicinal cannabis involves directly applying the products directly to the skin. The topical method provides localised relief from inflammation, pain, skin irritations and more. It comes in a variety of forms, such as balms, lotions, creams, salves and patches.
Suppositories offer a targeted dose of cannabinoids to a localised area that can help to facilitate higher absorption rates in the body. For this method, medicinal cannabis is provided in a solid form and is inserted into either the rectum or vagina.
To determine which method of consumption will be most appropriate for you and your therapeutic needs, it is important you have a discussion with a doctor who specialises in natural therapies and has a strong understanding of your condition and symptoms.
What Categories of Medicinal Cannabis Are Available in Australia?
The TGA classifies medicinal cannabis into five different categories that look at the amount of cannabidiol (CBD) within the medicine. These different categories help to ensure that patients have access to appropriate treatments and that prescribing doctors can maintain appropriate safety and quality standards in their treatment plans.
Doctors at product-agnostic clinics will have access to a range of medications across the categories to offer patients truly personalised and customisable care.
The five different categories are as follows:
Category 1: CBD Medicinal Cannabis Product (CBD >98%)
Medicinal cannabis products included in Category 1 are Schedule 4 Prescription Only Medicine (aka Schedule 4 Poison). In order to obtain a Schedule 4 Prescription Only Medicine, patients require a prescription.
To be classified as Category 1, cannabidiol must comprise 98% or more of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine. Any other cannabinoids found in the medicine (with the exception of cannabidiol) must be naturally found in cannabis and equal to 2% or less of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine. The medicine must not contain any other active ingredients
Category 2: CBD Dominant Medicinal Cannabis Product (CBD >60% and <98%)
Medicinal cannabis products included in Category 2 are Schedule 8 Controlled Drugs (aka Schedule 8 Poison). Schedule 8 Controlled Drugs are medicines with strict legislative controls, including opioid analgesics.
To be classified as Category 2, cannabidiol derived from cannabis must comprise between 60-98% of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine, and other cannabinoids (such as THC) derived from cannabis must comprise the remaining cannabinoid content of the medicine. The medicine must not contain any other active ingredients.
Category 3: Balanced Medicinal Cannabis Product (CBD <60% and >40%)
Medicinal cannabis products included in Category 3 are Schedule 8 Controlled Drugs.
To be classified as Category 3, cannabidiol must comprise between 40-60% of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine. Other cannabinoids (including THC) must comprise the remaining cannabinoid content of the medicine, and the medicine must not contain any other active ingredients.
Category 4: THC Dominant Medicinal Cannabis Product (THC 60-98%)
Medicinal cannabis products included in Category 4 are Schedule 8 Controlled Drugs.
To be classified as Category 4, other cannabinoids (including THC) must comprise between 60-98% of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine. Cannabidiol derived from cannabis must comprise between 2-40% of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine, and the medicine must not contain any other active ingredients.
Category 5: THC Medicinal Cannabis Product (THC >98%)
Medicinal cannabis products included in Category 5 are Schedule 8 controlled drugs.
To be classified as Category 5, cannabinoids (other than CBD) in the medicine are only those naturally found in cannabis. They must comprise 98% or more of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine, and CBD must comprise less than 2% of the total cannabinoid content of the medicine. The medicine must not contain any other active ingredients.
What Is a Product-Agnostic Clinic?
A product-agnostic clinic is one that provides recommendations and guidance on all legally available medicinal cannabis treatments. Doctors at product-agnostic clinics have the freedom to prescribe the medication that they think is best of the patient, without being incentivised or restricted to prescribing a certain medication or brand.
With clinics that are not product-agnostic, patients may only have access to a limited range of medications that may not be an appropriate fit.
A product-agnostic clinic will focus on evaluating the patient’s medical history, current condition and needs, in order to create a completely personalised treatment plan. This plan may include various different forms of medicinal cannabis from a range of different manufacturers, suppliers, and brands.
The Importance of Receiving Treatment From a Product-Agnostic Clinic
Your care should be at the forefront of your care provider's mind, and you should have access to bias-free recommendations and products.
When searching for a medicinal cannabis clinic that’s right for you, we recommend looking for a product-agnostic clinic that provides:
Clinics that prioritise patient health and well-being over promoting specific products are more likely to deliver unbiased recommendations to their patients. Recommendations should be based on the patient’s medical condition, research, and the clinical expertise of the prescribing doctor, rather than financial incentives from specific cannabis product manufacturers.
Access to Experts
A 2019 survey of Australian GPs showed that a large portion of Australian doctors felt uneducated about medicinal cannabis access pathways, available cannabis products, and the evidence supporting the prescription of medicinal cannabis.
Access to a Wide Range of Products and Brands
At product-agnostic clinics, doctors don’t have vested interests in promoting specific products or brands. This means that you receive unbiased treatment recommendations that are based solely on your needs and enables you to access any medical cannabis treatments that are available in Australia.
Personalised Care Plans and Patient-Centric Care
No two patients are the same. As such, it’s important that your doctor understands that different patients may respond differently to different medicinal cannabis products. A clinic that is product-agnostic will tailor a highly personalised treatment plan that suits your individual needs – not offer you a one-size-fits all plan or product.
Evidence-Based Approach to Treatment
A trustworthy clinic will rely on the latest scientific research and studies to guide their recommendations and prescriptions, not their allegiance with a particular brand or manufacturer. Studies show that access to current research, resources, and guides may assist in optimal clinical decision-making and beneficial patient-healthcare practitioner discussions. This approach works to ensure that patients are receiving evidence-based treatments that are more likely to be effective.
Any reputable clinic should believe in full transparency when it comes to their pricing.
- “Medicinal Cannabis Products by Active Ingredients.” Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), 7 Sept. 2023, www.tga.gov.au/medicinal-cannabis-products-active-ingredients.
- Lintzeris, Nicholas, et al. “Medical cannabis use in Australia: Consumer experiences from the online cannabis as Medicine Survey 2020 (CAMS-20).” Harm Reduction Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, 2022, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-022-00666-w.
- Peter Grinspoon, MD. “Common Questions about Medical Cannabis.” Harvard Health, 28 May 2021, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/common-questions-about-medical-cannabis-202105282467.
- Arnold, Jonathon C et al. “Prescribing medicinal cannabis.” Australian prescriber vol. 43,5 (2020): 152-159. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2020.052
- Graham, Myfanwy, et al. “Medicinal cannabis guidance and resources for health professionals to inform clinical decision making.” Clinical Therapeutics, vol. 45, no. 6, June 2023, pp. 527–534, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinthera.2023.03.007.
The information on this website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Polln is not promoting the use of medicinal cannabis. Medicinal cannabis in Australia is scheduled medication and regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Details about medicinal cannabis as a scheduled drug can be found on their website. If you would like to explore medicinal cannabis for your chronic condition, please consult with a doctor.
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