Updates to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Framework

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has conducted a review of the Medicinal Cannabis Framework (the Framework) and modified it to better meet the current and future requirements of DVA clients.  The updated Framework has been approved by the Repatriation Commission and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission.

From 16 January 2023, the updated Framework will allow medical practitioners and specialists to seek approval of funding of medicinal cannabis over the phone, without the need for assessment from a non-GP specialist in many circumstances.  This will streamline access to funded medicinal cannabis for eligible DVA clients.

While each application will continue to be considered on a case-by-case basis, DVA has developed a new tier-based approvals approach, which considers the active ingredients, dosage and regulatory factors.  This will streamline the application process and reduce administrative timeframes for medical practitioners and eligible DVA clients.

DVA will still require the medical practitioner to report why medicinal cannabis is clinically indicated, and confirm the potential for an adverse event or contraindication for the person has been assessed.

DVA acknowledges that a number of DVA clients have sought access to medicinal cannabis for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. DVA has a duty of care to veterans and their families to fund treatments that are proven to be effective, safe and comply with legislation.

There is currently insufficient evidence for the use of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of mental health conditions, including PTSD, with low to very low certainty evidence for its effectiveness.  In addition, there is evidence that use of medicinal cannabis for some people with mental health conditions could be harmful.  The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) advises that medicinal cannabis is not appropriate for people with a previous history of psychosis, or concurrent active mood or anxiety disorder.  DVA continues to actively monitor research in this space to ensure decisions about funding medicinal cannabis are informed by the latest clinical evidence to ensure the best possible outcomes for veterans.

DVA’s Framework is consistent with the opinion of Australian professional medical bodies, and is aligned with current clinical evidence.  The updated Framework provides greater flexibility to enable DVA to adapt to fund medicinal cannabis use for the treatment of more health conditions in the future, as clinical evidence emerges.

DVA’s website will be amended when the updated Framework starts on 16 January 2023.

Kindest regards

ESORT Secretariat

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