PlantMed Director Dr. John Teh Calls for Full PBS Coverage of Plant-Based Medicine
Thousands of Australians use medicinal cannabis to manage conditions such as chronic pain, PTSD, and epilepsy. While these treatments have proven to be effective, the cost of medicinal cannabis has caused financial strain on patients who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Jukka Manttari, a 68-year-old Maryborough resident, experienced the life-transforming benefits of medicinal cannabis for himself. After suffering from chronic pain for three decades that did not respond to traditional treatments, Jukka is finally pain free after being treated with medicinal cannabis. However, the high cost of prescriptions, amounting to nearly $700 a month, has put a significant dent in his finances. Much of his pension is dedicated solely to medication expenses and he has had to make many sacrifices such as forgoing home insurance and cutting back on necessities.
However, there is hope on the horizon for patients like Jukka. Medicinal cannabis providers have been working tirelessly to make these life-changing treatments more affordable and accessible to all. Our director, Dr. John Teh was recently interviewed by the ABC [link to article] about the cost and accessibility of medicinal cannabis. He has a vision of an affordable future for medicinal cannabis and understands that expanding the range of medications covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is crucial in achieving this goal.
Currently, only a limited number of treatments are subsidised by the PBS, which has left many patients struggling to afford their prescriptions. The main challenge with subsidising medicinal cannabis lies in the extensive regulatory process imposed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Dr. Teh acknowledges that navigating the red tape to gain government approval can be arduous for pharmaceutical providers.
“There’s a lot of red tape to get a medicine registered to the point where the government will subsidise it, and that’s why we are where we are at now,” he said.
“We have these medicines, which are great, they’re safe, we’re using them, but none of the suppliers or producers have been able to get to that regulation point yet.
“A lot of them are trying, I can guarantee you that.”
Despite this, he remains hopeful, as the industry has seen positive changes, with an increasing number of products coming to the market at more affordable prices. Furthermore, while there was initially social stigma surrounding cannabis, attitudes towards its medicinal use have evolved significantly in recent years. Dr. Teh pointed out that many doctors who were once sceptical are now referring their patients to clinics like PlantMed, recognising the therapeutic benefits of medicinal cannabis. As more medical professionals embrace its potential, the push for government subsidies has gained momentum.
The recent addition of Cannabidiol (Epidyolex) to the PBS for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome is a promising step forward. Federal Health Minister Mark Butler’s announcement brought hope to around 1,150 Australians who will benefit from the subsidised treatment.
Dr. Teh’s journey in the medicinal cannabis space began in 2016, where he encountered scepticism and resistance due to long standing misconceptions about cannabis. However, through research, education, and advocacy, he has played a pivotal role in changing attitudes and opening doors for patients seeking alternative treatments.