The Victorian Minister for Health, Jenny Mikakos, is calling on the Federal Government to list medicinal cannabis on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to make it more accessible to the people who cannot afford it yet would benefit from its use.

“Many Victorian patients are now accessing medicinal cannabis without the need of a state-level permit but we know most families can’t afford it, which is why the Federal Government needs to list it on the Pharamaceutical Benefits scheme,” said Ms Mikakos.

“It was our leadership in legislating to enable access to this life-changing treatment that forced the Commonwealth to take action and, as a result, any doctor in Australia can now apply for permits to prescribe medicinal cannabis to any patient to treat any illness.”

Last month Ms Mikanos, announced the expansion of the state government’s Compassionate Access Scheme from 60 to 90 places. The scheme allows children with severe, intractable epilepsy with access to a subsidised pharmaceutical grade cannabidiol, a product developed from medicinal cannabis.

Under the expanded scheme, 10 more children will now receive medicinal cannabis treatment with 20 more being eligible for the treatment next year.

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“We are expanding our compassionate access scheme so more kids can access a treatment that could change their lives when all other avenues are exhausted. I know how life changing this program has been for many kids, including 15-year-old Madison who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Royal Children’s Hospital. Since coming on to the scheme, Madison has been seizure-free for almost a year and is now back at school, living the kind of life all 15-year-olds deserve to live.”

The minister also announced that the state government would no longer be producing its pioneering cannabidiol product that was developed from medicinal cannabis that it had grown. The Department of Health and Human Services is to open an expression of interest for medical researchers to apply to access the 12kg of purified crystallised cannabidiol that had been manufactured by the state to use in health and medical research as well as clinical trials.

The state government has been working with a number of stakeholders to develop a thriving local medicinal cannabis industry. By August, this year, 11 organisations in Victoria held medicinal cannabis licences.

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Agriculture Victoria recently published its Medicinal Cannabis Industry Development Plan which sets out the state’s emerging medicinal cannabis industry in areas such as research, primary production and manufacture.

It projects that by 2028, if Victorian producers meet the needs of 83,000 Australian patients and develop a strong foothold in key export markets, the industry’s economic contribution to the state could reach $90 million per year. By that time, Victoria could be providing medicinal cannabis products to about half of the 166,000 potential patients across Australia.