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Governments bicker over who subsidises medicinal cannabis

Patients have been quoted up to $USD 26,000 a year, or about $AUD 93 a day, from an approved importer. PATIENTS wanting legal access to medicinal cannabis have been told they’ll need to fork out tens of thousands of dollars a year for the drug, as the state and federal governments continue to fight over who should subsidise it. The Courier-Mail can reveal patients have been quoted up to $USD 26,000 a year, or about $AUD 93 a day, from an approved importer – leaving them no choice but to continue sourcing medicinal cannabis through illegal channels. And any hope of securing a subsidy from either the Palaszczuk or Turnbull Governments appears to be dashed, with both Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt suggesting each other should fund it. Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that just four patients had to date been granted access to medicinal cannabis through the state’s single-prescriber pathway, with a further two patients enrolled in the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital trial. But she said it was hoped the new bulk importation rules introduced by the Turnbull Government would reduce waiting times, currently averaging four months, and bring down costs for patients. Steve Peek, who fears his eight-year-old daughter Suli would die without access to the cannabis oil he usually gets for free from a supplier, said he’d been quoted $USD 26,000 a year for a legal alternative. “It’s impossible,” he said.

Steve Peek, with his daughter Suli Peek, (then 4) in 2013. Chrissy Dunphy said it took eight months for her application for medicinal cannabis for her daughter Melissa, who has refractory epilepsy, to be approved. But the biggest shock came when she received a quote of $17,325 for a three month supply. “It’s astronomical,” she said. “I am wondering how they can justify it.” Last month, Mr Dick wrote to Mr Hunt asking him to “accelerate steps” to subsidise the products through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Mr Hunt’s reply said only medicines approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration could be added to the PBS. “If the Queensland government wishes to consider subsidising medicinal cannabis products for its citizens, that is a matter for it to consider,” he wrote. Yesterday, Mr Dick urged him to reconsider: “We want it to be as affordable as possible, but that ball is now in Mr Hunt’s court,” he said.

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