Medicinal cannabis users call for government to subsidise imports


PATIENTS wanting legal access to medicinal cannabis have been told they will need to pay tens of thousands of dollars a year for the drug, as the state and federal governments continue to fight over who should subsidise it.

The Courier-Mail can reveal patients have been quoted up to $34,000 a year, or about $93 a day, from an approved importer – leaving them no choice but to continue sourcing medicinal cannabis through illegal channels.

Any hope of securing a subsidy from either the state or federal governments appears to be dashed, with both Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt suggesting each other should fund it.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young told a parliamentary committee yesterday just four patients had been granted access to medicinal cannabis through the state’s single-prescriber pathway, plus two patients enrolled in the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital trial.

But she said it was hoped the new bulk importation rules introduced by the Federal Government would reduce waiting times, currently averaging four months, and bring down costs for patients.

Steve Peek, who fears his eight-year-old daughter Suli will die without access to the cannabis oil he usually gets for free from a supplier, said he had been quoted $US26,000 a year for a legal alternative.

“It’s impossible,” he said.

Last month, Mr Dick wrote to Mr Hunt asking him to “accelerate steps” to subsidise the products through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Mr Hunt said only medicines approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration could be added to the PBS.

“If the Queensland Government wishes to consider subsidising medicinal cannabis products for its citizens, that is a matter for it to consider,” he wrote.

Picture: Steve Peek with his daughter Suli in 2013. Mr Peek was quoted $US26,000 a year for medicinal cannabis. Picture: Lyndon MechielsenSource:News Limited

KARA VICKERY  22, 2017