August 6th, 2020
In June, Prohibition Partners reported that Australia was seeing triple digit year-on-year growth and with the release of new data today by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, the growth shows no sign of slowing down. July saw 5564 new approvals, an increase of over 900 on the previous month, which is the largest single month-on-month increase on record.
Since 2016, when cannabis was rescheduled to allow for increased access to cannabis therapeutics, the industry has been growing exponentially. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration today released new data, showing that the rapid growth continues despite the burden of COVID-19 on the health system. July saw 5564 new approvals, an increase of over 900 on the previous month, which is the largest single month-on-month increase on record. This is undoubtedly buoyed by government promotion of telehealth services meaning all patients can obtain their prescriptions remotely without having to travel to meet their doctor.
As medical cannabis is still listed as a controlled, schedule 8 substance in Australia, schemes such as the Special Access Schemes (SAS-B) and Authorised Prescribers provide patients with access to their medicines. The figure above represents the approvals under SAS-B which accounts for over 90% of prescriptions. As of December 2019, the Department of Health declared that at least 655 patients had accessed medical cannabis via the less popular Authorised Prescriber scheme.
While Australia’s cannabis industry has seen impressive development over recent years, there is still huge room for growth within the country. The most recent National Drug Strategy Household Survey, released last month, showed that around 2.7%, or 690,000 people in Australia above 14 years old used cannabis for medical purposes in the previous 12 months. Of these, only 3.9%* of users obtained their medicine legally through the medical system which would translate to around 27,000 people.
However, the Australian Department of Health estimates that there were 15,666 medical cannabis patients (not including Sativex) accessing via legal means during 2019. Taking midpoint values from these estimates means that in 2019, roughly 670,000 patients accessed their medical cannabis via illegal means, including growing themselves, obtaining from friends and from street dealers.
As more and more patients, doctors and regulators recognise the medical benefits of legal medical cannabis access, we expect to see the exponential growth of the industry in Australia to continue, and for black market supply to gradually be taken over by safe, reliable and appropriately prescribed medical cannabis.
*Note: the Institute of Health and Welfare states their figures have a wide margin of error due to small sample sizes.