The Medical Cannabis scheme has been live now for several years, with the transition period having ended just over 6 months ago, and in that time, despite numerous product approvals, a minimal range of products have become available for distribution. At the same time, prices are not expected to come down as promised by Minister Andrew Little, due to the restrictions imposed by our uber-high “quality standards” and small market size, resulting in all of the local manufacturers looking at exports to sustain themselves.
Against this backdrop, the patients with the most urgent needs are the least likely to be able to afford Medical Cannabis. At the MedCan summit, the Health Minister spoke of Pharmac funding.
“Having sat down with Pharmac and discussed thresholds for funding, both on a product or individual patient basis, I would suggest the Minister is guilty of Virtue Signalling, outside of a very narrow niche use case for Epidiolex, there is no likelihood of Pharmac funding for things patients want, Dried flowers, Oils etc, for the foreseeable future” says MCANZ founder Shane Le Brun.
The only other funding options currently available are ACC and WINZ funding, particularly “Temporary Additional Support” and the Disability Allowance.
The experience of the patient community with ACC is that it requires appeals, often to the District Court, for ACC to fund conditions such as Chronic Pain.
It is the view of MCANZ that the Disability allowance is the only viable mechanism to reliably fund patients, however it doesn’t cover existing expenses of those with disabilities, let alone an unfunded class of Medicines.
MCANZ trustee Gareth Duff, has had a recent experience with the futility of the Disability.
“I’ve spent nearly 2 years pursuing funding via the disability allowance, which was actively stalled, only to receive approval and be paid for 2 months of medicine. After paying for medicine, MSD realised this was an error and imposed on me a debt as it exceeded the Disability allowance limits”.
“Despite MSD staff being very supportive of my case, including the medical review team, ultimately the issue lies with the legislation and funding limits and thresholds,” Says Gareth.
An informal poll conducted by MCANZ shows that virtually all patients receiving the Disability allowance have maxed it out, and still have outstanding medical expenses to cover.
Disregarding our interest in Medical Cannabis, this is a clear signal that the current settings for financial support for those with permanent health conditions are unsatisfactory and are further compounded by the horrific rates of inflation currently.
MCANZ Urges the Government to take a holistic look at funding options and pathways to access without compromising the integrity of PHARMAC. ACC funding should not be decided down the barrel of lawyers. Patients should not have to fight for funding for a medicine that is prescribed and effective, regardless of its MEDSAFE approval status.
MCANZ Is also concerned that the Minister has refused to meet any patients and that any attempts to glean information on funding were redacted by default, with Tadhg Stopford at the hemp foundation successful in ombudsman complaints to “un-redact” OIAs discussing funding.
Furthermore, govt agency’s differing resource allocations lead to perverse outcomes, for want of perhaps six figures, there has yet to be a comprehensive clinical training ‘roadshow’ for prescribers. Meanwhile, MPI is funding 8 figures for industry research.
“At the end of the day, the $13 million dollar grant recently issued for cultivation research won’t have direct benefits for patient access, either prescriber willingness, or affordability, and infuriates the patient community who perceives this as corporate welfare.” Says Gareth.
MCANZ urges the Government to consider its income limits and thresholds and maximum limits for both the Disability Allowance and Temporary additional support. At least doubling the Disability allowance is the only viable solution for funding Medical Cannabis to the patients who need it most.