What You Need to Know About Medicinal Cannabis in Australia at The Hemp & Cannabis Expo



Australia’s Largest Hemp and Cannabis Expo is back for 2019 and this year the expo added ‘The Food Hempire’ (think ‘Eat Street’ but with Hemp foods), an eco-fashion showcase and 15 minute on-site medicinal cannabis doctor consultations.


Personally I have a great interest in medicinal cannabis and I'm ashamed of that our Government has no problem with tobacco and alcohol (both proven to be extremely bad for health) yet refuses to make cannabis easy for patients to access. However, things are improving slowly as I found out by speaking with Dr Sanjay Nijhawan from Australia’s Cannabis Access Clinics (legal cannabis access) who is one of the speakers at the Hemp & Cannabis Expo.


DR SANJAY NIJHAWAN BACKGROUND

Dr Sanjay Nijhawan is the Medical Director of Cannabis Access Clinics. Dr Nijhawan leads a team of doctors, engages with other senior clinicians, regulators and industry stakeholders. His 20 year medical background consist of working as a GP in remote areas such as Alice Springs by his own choice. In the past he has been Head Physician of Primary Healthcare overseeing 71 large centres and 1000 General Practitioners and Specialists. Three years ago he decided to go back to his roots and open his own General Practice in Western Sydney. During this time became Medical Director of Cannabis Access Clinics.


Dr Nijhawan took on the role at Cannabis Access not only to improve the quality of life for patients but also to ensure proper research and governance. In his own research Dr Nijhawan has concluded that from clinical (not blind) studies, the results of this sort of adjunct therapy cannot be ignored.

HOW TO OBTAIN A PRESCRIPTION FOR MEDICINAL CANNABIS

As a sufferer of Crohn’s Disease resulting in right hemicolectomy and removal of a 300ml Psoas Abscess from complications of the disease, I asked Dr Nijhawan if medicinal cannabis could cure or help patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Unfortunately, what I thought could be my ‘miracle cure’ turns out not to be, however, as an adjunct therapy it could indeed be extremely beneficial especially with the pain that most sufferers of this disease have to endure. Patients are advised to follow what their specialist prescribes and as an adjunct therapy, medical cannabis can help improve loss of appetite, anxiety, insomnia, pain and it also provides an anti inflammatory effect.


Unfortunately, many patients who suffer from various diseases have to endure extreme pain and treatment with medical cannabis can help alleviate this. Patients who have exhausted all other avenues of pain relief such as morphine, opiates, steroids, and antidepressants could benefit greatly with medicinal cannabis. With his own patients, Dr Nijhawan has seen some amazing results.


Clinics see patients who are suffering from chronic pain, fibromyalgia, epilepsy multiple sclerosis, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, endometriosis, anxiety, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and other conditions.


So how easy is it to get medicinal cannabis? Well as it turns out not as easy as I had hoped. There are two ways about it. A referral from a GP, however many are reluctant to do this because of the copious amount of paperwork and time involved. The other is to have a GP write a referral to Cannabis Access Clinics and have a consultation with a doctor either face to face or via videoconference. This does not guarantee a prescription though; a patient must have exhausted all other treatments to get pain relief prior to being approved by the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration). In a nutshell, Cannabis Access Clinics streamline the process for both GP and patient.



COST

The process of an initial consultation with Cannabis Access Clinics is $200, if eligible there may be a Medicare rebate if the consult is in person. On top of that, monthly monitoring reviews in the first 2-3 months when a patient is titrating up to their optimal dosage, costs $80 a consult. Thereafter, monitoring consultations can be once every 3-6 months depending on the patient’s individual case.


In Australia we are extremely lucky to have Medicare and the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme), however not all drugs are on the list and they can be very expensive. Medicinal Cannabis is anywhere from $250 up to $800 per month so it’s not cheap.

SIDE EFFECTS

As with all medicines there are possible side effects and medical cannabis is no exception. Dr Nijhawan says that some people may have a reaction such as sleepiness and if a patient already suffers from psychotic episodes there is a chance that can be triggered. However, all patients are closely monitored. As with all medications, a patient will stay on it until the doctor decides that there is no more reason to continue.


ABOUT THE AUSTRALIA HEMP & CANNABIS EXPO

18th and 19th May at Rosehill Racecourse, Sydney

Experiential and educational with interactive activities for all ages alongside local and international exhibitors, HHI Expo is Australia’s opportunity to taste, touch, feel and experience it all; in a safe, family-friendly environment.


Through workshops, displays, speakers and exhibitors, the Australia Hemp & Cannabis Expo brings all the research, science, innovation, products, industries and uses of hemp together under one roof. Fibres, foods, beverages, clothing and textiles, medicinal products, oils & tinctures, extraction equipment, vapes, art, building materials, beauty products, gardening equipment and much more.


The Australian Cannabis & Hemp Symposium will bring together the world’s leading medical professionals, academics, research associates, pharmacists, activists and entrepreneurs for conversations and Q&A sessions around the many uses and benefits of this incredible and versatile plant including presentations from the Australian Cannabis Access Clinics.



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