Since early 2018, patients have been able to legally import cannabis products through the TGA’s Special Access Scheme, as a second-line treatment for conditions such as chronic cancer pain or use in palliative care.

FreshLeaf Analytics, which is the industry advisory arm of the company that owns Cannabis Access Clinics, said the number of patients using the drug had already topped 5000 and was expected to double by the end of the year if current trends continued.

“Towards the end of 2018, the Australian medicinal cannabis market had its ‘hockey stick’ moment where approvals started to trend upwards rapidly,” FreshLeaf Analytics said in a report on Monday.

“This trend has continued unabated through the third quarter of 2019, with July alone seeing 40% growth month on month.”

It said that as of September there were 76 products on the Australian market, costing patients between $6 and $10 per day on average.

Patients need upskilled GPs

“It does need upskilling of GPs to learn how to get a permit for medicinal cannabis and I’m constantly approached by GPs asking me to help them.”

The Melbourne GP said the rise in products available in Australia had added to problems, as doctors could only make prescriptions in a product-specific fashion.

“It might sound impressive to have it on the market, but it actually creates more complexity for the GP,” Professor Kotsirilos said.

“We have to know the product well and if we wish to change a product with a patient, we have to reapply every time, which is very time-consuming and a little unethical dealing with the [product] sponsors all the time.”

She said the easiest way to both assist GPs and maintain an arm’s-length approach to the growing industry would be to prescribe generically.

The market report also found that oil-based products were the most common type available and that CBD formulations were the most prescribed compared with  THC-only preparations.