Online Portals Guide Australian Doctors Through Medical Cannabis Maze

Doctors in Australia aren’t big prescribers of medical cannabis—not yet, at least. One of the main reasons is a complex prescription process, which requires jumping through regulatory hoops and coordinating with appropriately licensed pharmacies. Although the Australian Senate recently rejected tighter medical cannabis controls proposed by the federal government, the path to a prescription can still be a slog.

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In an effort to streamline the process online portals are stepping in, offering doctors education on available products available and scientific evidence around treatment. Many even help streamline the process to secure the necessary regulatory approvals.

Such services have enjoyed early success in other markets. California-based HelloMD, for example, recently raised $1 million to expand its telemedicine business to medical cannabis.

In Australia, however, medical cannabis is considered an unapproved medicine, meaning it cannot legally be advertised or marketed. A narrow exception to that rule allows for information to be given to health care professionals who actively enquire about cannabis treatment. We took a look at some of the online portals trying to span the gap in a market still hamstrung by strict regulation.

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Cannabis Access

Navigating Australia’s strict regulations forms a key part of the Cannabis Access proposition. The site offers a simple, streamlined process to doctors interested in obtaining government approval to prescribe cannabis. The site lists products that have been approved by the Office of Drug Control for legal import, and it provides comprehensive reviews of clinical studies that have been conducted. The site even allows registered health care professionals to apply for approval directly through the site, minimizing paperwork and improving success rates by ensuring all information submitted is correct. Access to the portal is restricted to health care practitioners, who must register using their professional ID (an “AHPRA” number).

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Cannahealth

Cannahealth rocks a modern-looking website, and, like CannabisAccess, has a streamlined process in place. While doctors still need to sit down with patients to actually prescribe products, Cannahealth takes care of almost everything else, filing applications and setting up the link between patient and pharmacy.

Unlike the other portals, Cannahealth also bills itself as an information source, and plays up the not-for-profit nature of its owner, the Australian Institute for Medical Cannabis (AIMC). The group was registered in 2016, and it received a medical cannabis research license in March of this year, but little else is known about the entity.

As Cannahealth can’t advertise products, it’s so far unclear which will be available. Still, the site lists a range of conditions for treatment, including “head concussion,” “skin disorder,” and “women’s health.”

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Medical Cannabis Clinic Australia

It’s the internet, and some portals push the limit of what’s allowed. Medical Cannabis Clinic Australia’s online portal has thrown caution to the wind, apparently ignoring Australian laws about advertising unapproved medicine to patients. The company’s site proudly advertises two products to potential patients: a transdermal cream and sublingual drops. They don’t specify what medicine the cream and drops actually contain, however.

Despite the advertising, no products are available to order, and the site stopped updating in June 2016.

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