Health Minister Cameron Dick is calling for medicinal cannabis to be subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
It comes as a parliamentary committee examines a bill which aims to make access to the drug cheaper and more available for sick Queenslanders.
Health Minister Cameron Dick has asked for medicinal cannabis to be on the PBS. Photo: The Age
Last month, Mr Dick wrote to federal Health Minister Greg Hunt asking for the Commonwealth to accelerate steps to make medicinal cannabis affordable by placing it on the PBS.
"Our government is doing all it can to access legal products, but while there is no domestic supply and no subsidisation under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), affordability remains an issue," Mr Dick said.
Committee member and LNP MP Sid Cramp said medicinal cannabis needed to be cheaper.
"We say it's going to get cheaper, are we ever looking at a situation where could even be on the PBS or something similar where there is a subsidy to make that our most vulnerable, especially our financially vulnerable, are able to access this and ... it becomes a class division as such?" Mr Cramp asked in a committee hearing on Wednesday.
But in Mr Hunt's reply to Mr Dick, he said the federal government could not list a medicine on the PBS unless the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) had recommended its listing.
One of the prerequisites to a listing on the PBS is approval for commercial supply through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) through registration on the Australian Register for Therapeutic Goods.
The PBAC can consider an application for a PBS listing for a medicine which is not TGA approved, but if it is recommended by the PBAC, it cannot be listed on the PBS until the TGA has approved it for relevant medical use.
"There are over 20,000 prescriptions filled for unregistered medicines in Australia every year and none of these medicines receive PBS subsidies," Mr Hunt wrote.
"To make an exception for medicinal cannabis products would set an inappropriate precedent and undermine both the PBS listing process and the TGA's approval process, leading to poorer public health outcomes."
Mr Hunt said medicinal cannabis products must be evaluated in the same way as any other medicine.
"If the Queensland government wishes to consider subsidising medicinal cannabis products for its citizens, that is a matter for it to consider," he wrote.
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said when the product was approved for local production, rather than imported from overseas, it would become much cheaper.
"We went out and did a tour of the state to talk to farmers throughout the state to give them information about it [growing cannabis in Queensland] and we know that there are people who have been contacting the Commonwealth," she told the committee hearing.
"So it's with the Commonwealth to make those decisions about granting a licence."
Dr Young poured cold water on the idea of an amnesty for people using medicinal cannabis illegally, which followed a suggestion by member for Buderim Steve Dickson.
"The issue... is that people don't actually know what product they're getting, they don't know if it's been contaminated by heavy metals, as we've had many examples of that, they don't know if it's been contaminated with fungi, with bacteria," she said.
"And it's not consistent, they might get a product one time that has a certain composition and the next time have a very different product."
Dr Young said it was hoped there would be product available in Australia that would be available for quick access.
Since the beginning of 2016, the Commonwealth has processed 52 approvals for medicinal cannabis products out of 83 applications.