Compassion and evidence in prescribing cannabinoids: a perspective from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians

Jennifer H Martin, Yvonne Bonomo and Adrian DB Reynolds
Med J Aust 2018; 208 (3): . || doi: 10.5694/mja17.01004
Published online: 19 February 2018

The RACP emphasises the need for caution until there is sufficient quality evidence to support the use of medicinal cannabis

The pace and scale of the introduction of medicinal cannabis are unprecedented and have raised challenges for health professionals, not so much because of its known addictive and psychoactive properties but because its introduction has not followed the usual research-based safety and effectiveness processes. These processes include pharmaceutical, animal, pharmacological and clinical research, recommended under national medicines frameworks upheld by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia and the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority (Medsafe), as well as by legislation such as the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 (Cwlth). The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) supports timely access to products with safety and effectiveness data. However, it appreciates that there is growing community demand for prescription cannabinoids on compassionate grounds. As such, effective medical leadership and guidance is required to inform public discussion and compassionate access until the necessary data become available and more specific advice can be given.

  • 1 University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW
  • 2 Hunter New England Health, Newcastle, NSW
  • 3 St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC
  • 4 Alcohol and Drug Services, Tasmanian Health Service, Hobart, TAS
  • 5 University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS



We thank the RACP Policy and Advocacy Committee and Medicinal Cannabis Reference Group for editing earlier versions of the article, which has been approved by the RACP President.

Competing interests:

The National Health and Medical Research Council has provided a $2.5 million grant to the Australian Centre for Cannabinoid Clinical and Research Excellence (ACRE). NSW Health has funded an open-label study of a variety of cannabinoids in palliative care. Jennifer Martin and Yvonne Bonomo are investigators with ACRE and the NSW study. All authors are members of various state and federal committees regarding medical cannabis, and are involved in the RACP EVOLVE initiative.

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