7th February 2024 17:22
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

Rachel PAYNE (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (17:22): (673)

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health, Minister Thomas. I have been contacted by multiple people who have experienced being denied access to their prescribed medicinal cannabis administered via dry herb vape while being treated in Victorian hospitals. In one such case upon admission to hospital a person’s prescribed medicine was confiscated by hospital staff, and the patient was unable to access it at any point during their stay.

This was despite the hospital in question having a nearby smoking area and the patient offering to only take their medication in that area. For those who require inpatient services and who for a number of reasons cannot take their prescribed medicinal cannabis via another method, blanket bans such as these are damaging. They deny patients access to prescribed medicine and often force those already going through stressful medical treatment to use harmful and addictive opioids.

In Victoria there are no guidelines for hospitals to ensure medicinal cannabis patients who administer their prescription via vape can access their medication. I would also note that these vapes are TGA-approved administration devices. Instead there is the suggestion that a prescribing doctor should negotiate an access plan with the hospital, but blanket bans continue to be a barrier.

In New South Wales and Queensland there are clear guidelines for admitting medicinal cannabis patients to hospital. These ensure adequate treatment that deals with the patient’s wishes and illness while minimising risks. These guidelines cover a broad range of subjects, including how a patient’s medicinal cannabis should be stored while they are at hospital.

We know that Australia’s medicinal cannabis market is growing, and it is growing fast. Without proper guidelines in place for patients going through the hospital system, we risk short-changing patients on the benefits of their prescribed medicine and forcing them to use harmful alternatives such as opioids.

The action I seek is that the minister commit to ensuring no hospital denies access to a patient’s prescribed medicinal cannabis administered via vape. I seek that the minister do this through developing a set of guidelines for hospitals interacting with medicinal cannabis patients.

Written Answer
Received: 01 March 2024
Hon. Mary-Anne Thomas MP
(Minister for Health, Minister for Health Infrastructure, Minister for Ambulance Services)

The Victorian government strives to ensure that our hospital system delivers high quality, safe and effective care to all patients, including providing a safe environment for patients and staff.

Under Victoria’s Tobacco Act 1987, smoking and the use of e-cigarettes (vaping) is prohibited in all enclosed workplaces, including hospitals, and certain public spaces where members of the public gather. This includes within 4 metres of the entrance to public hospitals and registered community health centres. This is because there may be exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke and the aerosol (vapour) from e-cigarettes.

However, ensuring continuity of care for patients in hospital is indeed important, including taking regular prescribed medicines. Health services routinely review a patient’s current medicines and continue these during their hospital admission, where this is considered safe and clinically appropriate. In some cases, this may include the option of substituting another form/formulation.

The use of cannabinoid-containing medicines is acknowledged as a rapidly evolving area of medicine, with a variety of products and formulations now available to patients for a range of health conditions. There is guidance currently being developed by the Victorian Therapeutics Advisory Group (VicTAG) in the form of a management framework for S8, S9 and S4D medicines. This framework is intended to include guidance to Victorian hospitals on the management of patient’s own medicines, including medicinal cannabis preparations.

Advice is also being sought from other jurisdictions to help inform Victoria’s approach to managing hospital patients using medicinal cannabis preparations to facilitate best patient care, including ensuring that access to a patient’s prescribed cannabis medicines is not unreasonably restricted.


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