Interview on ABC Radio Sydney with Robbie Buck

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's interview on ABC Radio Sydney Robbie Buck

Page last updated: 22 February 2017

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22 February 2017

E&OE…

Topics: Announcement to deliver faster supply of medicinal cannabis products for patients with the necessary approvals

ROBBIE BUCK:
Well, from today sale of marijuana products for medical use in Australia will officially be legal. It’s set to be announced by the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who joins us this morning. Good morning.

GREG HUNT:
Good morning Robbie.

ROBBIE BUCK:
Yeah, this has been an interesting journey over the last few years. We’ve seen it really come out of- seemingly out of nowhere to become a really major topic.
Tell us about today’s announcement, and really what it’s going to mean though for people who are listening right now who have been trying to navigate the red tape and have been very frustrated by it.

GREG HUNT:
Sure. Look, the first thing is having met with families, having met with medical professionals, what we’re doing is responding to that need, and it’s already the case that medicinal cannabis is legal if prescribed by a proper medical supplier.

However, what has genuinely been hard is obtaining supply. So we’re authorising and arranging for what’s effectively an interim national supply in Australia.

It will be imported. Along the way, the state of Victoria and private providers will be developing domestic supply. But that will take time, so I didn’t want to wait for that.

I’ve consulted the Office of Drug Control and the health authorities, and frankly I’ve got to say the Prime Minister was very invested personally in this as well to make sure that we have the supply.

So as of today we’re issuing a call for people to be able to import and to create this interim national supply which will make it much easier to access the controlled medical supplies. That will take about eight weeks, as an honest answer.

I’m only very new to the job. It’s one of the things I’ve embarked upon since literally day one, and now we’re in a position to do something that’s never been done in Australia before, to make that supply available on what’s effectively an interim national source and stockpile.

ROBBIE BUCK:
We’re very familiar with the story of Dan and Lucy Haslam from here in New South Wales. Dan is dealing with cancer and his discovery that the medicinal cannabis actually had a really strong effect.

We’ve also seen I think a really major turnaround by a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t have been convinced that going down this route is going to be really effective and going to change a lot of people’s lives.

But what was some of the examples that you have heard, some of the families that you’ve heard that have put you on this path yourself?

GREG HUNT:
There were a couple that I think had really struck me. One was a mother with a child who has absolutely severe epilepsy, and as a parent I just cannot imagine how distressing that is, both for the parent and even more so of course for this beautiful young child.

I also spoke with somebody very senior who had been in public life who has a very advanced cancer, and this was a matter of extreme importance to them.

And they’re in the late stages of their journey, I’m sorry to say, but they have received real pain reduction.

So I think it’s incumbent in that situation having made it legally available for safe and controlled substances to actually make sure that the supply is available.

So this has been one of the priorities since I came into the role, and so what we’re doing now is making sure that for the first time ever, there’ll be an interim national supply available.

And as a consequence of that, that will mean that as we develop the domestic supplies, and the state of Victoria is doing it, and the first private license was authorised only last week …

ROBBIE BUCK:
You’re talking about Australian growers, actually growing it here in Australia.

GREG HUNT:
Yep, that’s exactly right. So the Victorian Government is growing medicinal cannabis, and it will take them until the middle of the year or so.

I mean, I don’t want to put a specific date. They’re doing everything right to make that available.

They may not be able to meet all of the national needs, and in the longer term, the private cultivators, the very serious, authorised, reviewed cultivators will provide it through a federal process.

But right now what I want to do is get on and make sure that there is an imported interim supply available that helps the very people that you and I have been talking about.

ROBBIE BUCK:
Yeah, and just very quickly, minister, there’ll be people listening who either themselves have been trying to navigate this or have loved ones or good friends who are trying to.

Just very quickly, the steps from here. If you are somebody who is suffering from HIV, cancer patients, severe epilepsy, motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, these are the kind of conditions, are they?

GREG HUNT:
Exactly.

ROBBIE BUCK:
Yeah, alright. And you get a prescription from your GP …

GREG HUNT:
You have to go through a doctor. It’s like any very, very serious drug. It can only be prescribed by a doctor, and that can either be a GP or a specialist, and at that point, the issue has been whilst we had made that avenue legal, it has been difficult to get supply.

Now, not every doctor will prescribe this. It’s a matter for the doctor, as with any very, very serious drug, so I think we need to make that clear, that this is about a medical product being available through medical processes.

But our job was to make sure it’s safe and it’s legal, but frankly there was a gap, having put the law in place, so now we’re also making sure that the supply is available.
And from my discussions, interestingly with the PM, it was something on his radar as well when I came into the portfolio.

So we actually worked very closely on this. He was very concerned about individuals with extreme pain and the delay. So it’s a been a shared passion.

ROBBIE BUCK:
Now hopefully it’ll bring some relief. Thank you very much for your time this morning.

GREG HUNT:
It’s a pleasure.

ENDS

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