Interview on 3AW Mornings with Neil Mitchell

Transcript of Minsiter for Health, Greg Hunt's interview on 3AW with Neil Mitchell

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

NEIL MITCHELL:
On the line, the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Good morning.

GREG HUNT:
Good morning, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Through your actions as announced today, will medicinal cannabis be more freely and quickly available?

GREG HUNT:
So it will be available, yes, more freely, where it is prescribed by a doctor. So, you've outlined the Californian system, that's not what we're doing in Australia.

I gently correct one of the points about the scope of conditions for which it will be available. It's where medical doctors prescribe it, then it will be available.

So there's a strict regime in Australia, very different to California. But what has been a barrier up until now is access to supply. So what we've done is issue an order through the Office of Drug Control today, which will allow for high quality, authorised importers to develop an interim national supply.

So Victoria is doing the right thing in bringing on a domestic supply, and we're also authorising private providers. But for families and patients with a range of conditions, if, and only if, a GP or a specialist prescribes it, it will be available. That is a big big difference.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Okay, so under this when will the first amount of medicinal cannabis be imported into Australia?

GREG HUNT:
We expect that within eight weeks. At the moment there's been a case-by-case import process. That's been slow, frankly. It has been done for the first time.

So this is legislation that came in for the first time in Australia under our Government, was never available legally previously. But I looked at it on day one in the office.

Actually, the Prime Minister's also been very involved and together we wanted to make it available readily for families.

So as a national government, we're working to make sure there's an interim national supply available until the domestic supplies come online.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Will it be psychoactive?

GREG HUNT:
So I'll leave that for the medical professionals. They will control the nature and the form of it. The goal here is pain relief.

This is not a drug that will be available for recreational use. It's like any other very very serious medicine or drug, it will be prescribed by a doctor and the form of it will be regulated by the medical authority.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Okay, so just to clarify that, you're saying that if the doctors wish to use psychoactive cannabis, they can?

GREG HUNT:
No, what I'm saying is that I'm not going to be dictating the style or form of any medicine. That's for the medical authority…

NEIL MITCHELL:
I know, but that's fairly basic. I mean, but the whole…

GREG HUNT:
I don't [inaudible] any other [inaudible] in Australia, and I'm not going to do that with this medicine to try to pre-empt what the medical authority authorise as the right, proper and appropriate medicine and dosage.

NEIL MITCHELL:
But psychoactive means you can get high, you can get stoned on it. That's a pretty basic thing. The medicinal cannabis being trialled and used in Victoria gives you no high.

GREG HUNT:
Well…

NEIL MITCHELL:
It's a fairly basic thing about whether, and it's part of the California problem, whether I can buy medicinal cannabis gives me a high or not.

GREG HUNT:
Well this is not for recreational use. It's only for pain relief.

NEIL MITCHELL:
No, no, I understand that.

GREG HUNT:
And we have just appointed one of Australia's foremost medical experts, Professor James Angus, who has been running the Victorian program as the national program.

The same approach applies, it's a common approach between all of the states and the Commonwealth. Our job was to make sure that the state-prescribed drugs are available at the national level.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Okay, so you do not make a ruling on whether it is psychoactive or not?

GREG HUNT:
Look, I am not going to do that. What I am saying is that we are standing by the states, what they had put in place in terms of the standards.

And I think Victorians have got it right, frankly. And that's what that and only that is what can and will be imported for desperately needed pain relief in some of the most tragic and difficult patients.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Okay, I'm just reading the Victorian background. It is only available for children with severe intractable epilepsy at the moment.

GREG HUNT:
I think that's the clinical trial which Victoria is running. The range of circumstances could come from a variety of backgrounds.

And so a specialist could prescribe it or a GP, under the right circumstances for different conditions where they believe that there is a strong medical case.

And so the clinical trials as I understand it and I'm happy to be corrected, is for the circumstance you've provided. The general ability of a doctor to prescribe is much more wide.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Okay. Could it for example be prescribed for something like anxiety? I mean, we understand cancer can be very useful in cancer treatment, particularly people undergoing chemo, stimulating appetite, relax them.

MND, MS, these things, epilepsy obviously is well known. But could it be prescribed for somebody with say, anxiety?

GREG HUNT:
So one thing I'm not going to try to be is to put myself in the place of a doctor. I have a Chief Medical Officer to do that. And the prescription of drugs is a matter for the doctors and the specialists, and that's exactly as it should be.

Our regime is to make sure that there are supplies available for the state-authorised treatment, and that's our job as the Commonwealth.

NEIL MITCHELL:
But I get that. Are you approving the import of cannabis that is psychoactive? Because there is cannabis oil that is available that is not. Are you here approving the import of cannabis that is psychoactive?

GREG HUNT:
What we're approving is cannabis for pain relief. My understanding is that is not what any of the states want.

This is about pain relief. It's not about people being able to do anything else.

I believe it's exactly what you have been arguing for, a strong controlled regime where there is compassionate use for families with children or cancer sufferers.

I spoke with an older gentleman who had been in public life recently who, in his last days, for whom this is desperately important.

I spoke with a mum of a young child with just a catastrophically tragic form of epilepsy. It's for that type of activity.

It's as these things should always be, in the hands of medical professionals. What hasn't been possible is the supply and on my watch, in my time, with my first few weeks, we have changed the rules to allow an interim national supply and I think that's the right thing to do by the country both in terms of safety and also compassion.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Thank you so much for your time.

GREG HUNT:
Thanks very much.

ENDS

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