NSW Cannabis Medicines Advisory Service

The Cannabis Medicines Advisory Service provides expert clinical guidance and support to NSW doctors considering prescribing a cannabis medicine for their patient. The Service is part of the NSW Government $21 million commitment to advance our understanding for the safe and appropriate use of cannabis medicines to treat serious and debilitating symptoms. Information for medical practitioners is available here.


FAQ

What is the NSW Cannabis Medicines Advisory Service?

The NSW Cannabis Medicines Advisory Service is available to support any NSW doctor considering the use of a cannabis medicine as a treatment for their patient. Based at Hunter New England Health, the Service has been established in response to feedback that doctors need prompt access to expert advice about when a cannabis medicine might be an appropriate treatment option, which medicines are available and how to administer them.

How will the Service operate?

Through the Service and its hotline, NSW doctors, whether specialists or general practitioners, can access up-to-date information about the use of cannabis medicines; formulations, dosing regimens and potential interactions with other drugs. 

Doctors can discuss the outcomes of clinical trials using cannabis medicines and other research relevant to the particular symptoms their patient is experiencing. They can get advice on factors in their patient’s medical history that should be considered as part of the decision to use a cannabis medicine or a particular product.

The Service can also draw on existing clinical and research networks and communicate changes to treatment standards using registered medicines, helping doctors ensure their patients are referred to best-practice evidence-based care. 

The Service is linked to the Australian Centre for Cannabinoid Clinical and Research Excellence (ACRE). The partnership between the Service and ACRE will develop guidance and prescribing protocols to assist doctors with their application for an authority to prescribe a cannabis medicine and collect standardised information about the safety and efficacy of treatments. This information, together with findings from the NSW Government-funded clinical trials program, will accelerate our knowledge about the role of cannabis medicines and guide future practice.

Why do doctors need this Service?

Use of cannabis medicines is an emerging field. Currently only one cannabis medicine has been fully assessed for safety, quality and effectiveness and is registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
  
All other cannabis medicines are experimental. Information about their safety profile is not readily available. This includes appropriate formulations and dosing, possible side effects and how particular products may interact with other medicines a patient is receiving. The effect on different people, especially those with more than one condition, is still being studied. Early research may provide limited and sometimes contradictory results.

It can be time-consuming for doctors to undertake the necessary research into products and keep pace with developments in the literature. The Service is available to assist doctors, with a senior doctor and pharmacists knowledgeable about the latest clinical practice and research developments. 


Will the Service speed up access to cannabis medicine?

Doctors do not have to contact the Service before they make an application to prescribe a cannabis medicine. However, if they have not made an application before, it can be helpful if they do so. Seeking advice first can help ensure any application made by a doctor is appropriate and complete.
  
By providing support through clinical guidance and prescribing protocols, the Service will also help streamline the application process for a doctor requesting an authority to prescribe and supply a cannabis medicine where this is appropriate.

Will the Service's clinical advice be limited to specific symptoms or conditions?

The Service will have a focus on palliative care but is not restricted to this. This initial emphasis reflects the level of interest expressed by palliative care patients and their health practitioners, including GPs. These patients are also being prioritised as their treatment is particularly time-critical. However, the Service will offer NSW doctors expert clinical advice on the use of cannabis medicine to treat a range of symptoms.

Why is the Service based in Newcastle?

The Hunter New England Health District is highly experienced in providing health coverage to many rural and regional areas. This location will ensure access to expert clinical advice for both metropolitan and regional practitioners, including those based in rural and remote areas.

Can patients call the Service?

The Service is for medical practitioners. Further information about cannabis medicines and NSW Government-funded clinical trials for patients and members of the general public is available through:

  • Telephone: Health Direct Help Line, 1800 217 257
  • Email: The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation, cmcri@moh.health.nsw.gov.au
  • Post: Cannabis Trials, Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation, Locked Mail Bag 961, North Sydney, NSW 2059