Research and evidence

The evidence for cannabis medicines

While showing therapeutic potential, cannabis is a highly complex plant and significant gaps remain in our knowledge. We don’t fully understand the hundreds of chemical compounds that make up the plant or the intricacies of the human endocannabinoid system.

Currently, most cannabis medicines available in Australia are unregistered. This means they haven’t been fully assessed by the Australian Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for safety and efficacy, although they do need to meet a quality standard. As with all medicines, the potential benefits and harms of cannabis medicines need to be rigorously investigated and assessed against established treatment options.

The TGA, with the support of the NSW, Victorian and Queensland state governments, commissioned a team to review the available scientific evidence for the use of cannabis medicines in five areas: palliative care, nausea and vomiting, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and pain. Guidance documents on the use of cannabis medicines for treatment of these conditions have been published on the TGA's website. A summary of the review was developed for consumers can also be found on the TGA's website

It is important to note the use of cannabis medicines is a relatively new field. The evidence on the safety, quality and efficacy of various medicinal cannabis products is still emerging, and the effects of high-dose long-term exposure are unclear, even for the more studied cannabinoids. Cannabinoids act on many areas of the body, including the neurological, cardiovascular and immune systems, and can potentially provide benefits and harms, just like any other substance.

Research in NSW

NSW supports research into cannabis medicines and the NSW Government continues to encourage and support research in our higher education, health and industry sectors to drive advances in this emerging field.

In NSW, there are currently several universities and research centres conducting research across a range of fields (see below). NSW is also home to leading institutes including:

Information about clinical trials in Australia can be found by searching the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry.