Medical cannabis market growing, but access needs to improve

Australia’s budding medical cannabis industry is expected to see its revenues double in 2021 as demand for products grows.

Australia’s budding medical cannabis industry is expected to see its revenues double in 2021 as demand for products grows.

Data from cannabis market researcher, Fresh Leaf Analytics, shows revenues could hit $200 million in 2021, with more than 600,000 Australians already using some kind of cannabis product for medical reasons in 2019.

Fresh Leaf also found the number of products available for prescription has effectively doubled each year since 2018 to reach 190 products.

A separate report from Prohibition Partners suggests the market could now be on track to break US $1.5 billion by 2025 as regulation currently restricting the sale of cannabis products is changed.

Even so, strict access regulations, many doctors’ lack of knowledge around the products, and prohibitive costs are posing challenges for consumers looking to use medical cannabis.

Access remains difficult

In Australia, all medical and therapeutic goods must be approved by the TGA before they can be sold to patients.

Very few medicinal cannabis products have received this approval yet, and patients who need these medications must instead rely on the TGA’s special access scheme. 

This scheme allows medical practitioners to apply to the TGA to write a prescription for an unapproved medication for individual patients who could benefit from using medicinal cannabis.

In June 2021, more than 9,400 of these prescriptions for unapproved medicinal cannabis products were authorised – up 70% on June 2020.


Last year, the TGA sought to improve access to medicinal cannabis goods by reclassifying low-dose CBD oil as a ‘Schedule 3’ (S3) medication in the national Posion’s Standard – meaning pharmacists can sell it over-the-counter without a prescription.

The move was welcomed by industry leaders who said the changes will improve access for patients, but with no S3 CBD oil products yet approved by the TGA there will still be a wait before stock hits shelves.

Complicated process, lack of information leaves doctors hesitant

Earlier this year, a study by Chronic Pain Australia found many doctors are reluctant to prescribe medicinal cannabis to their patients because they themselves don’t know how to access it.

The study – which surveyed more than 2200 Australians about their interactions with GPs – found many doctors didn’t know how to apply through the TGA special access scheme for a prescription.

Several doctors also cited concerns about the price of medicinal cannabis goods, with one respondent being told cannabis was a “great idea” but their doctor wasn’t willing to risk them potentially spending hundreds of dollars only to find the treatment had little or no effect.

Medications which haven’t been approved by the TGA do not receive government subsidies like the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), with some patients paying as much as $60,000 a year for CBD oil. 

Justin Sinclair, a naturopath from Western Sydney University’s NICM Health Research Institute, said this reluctance is “completely understandable” but suggested more needs to be done to educate doctors on the matter.

“Doctors may not want to prescribe cannabis because they don’t know enough about it and what they did learn in their university courses mainly focused on the associated harms,” he said. 

“Education around the therapeutic activity of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system should be embedded in the medical curriculum and not just offered as a postgraduate choice.”

Wellnex Life (ASX: WNX) is a leader in the health and wellness space and is currently planning to launch its own over-the-counter medicinal cannabis product, aiming to be first to market. Please join us tomorrow at 11am for a live investor briefing with Wellnex CEO George Karafotias who will discuss the company’s plans in more detail. Book here.



Reach Corporate provide Corporate Advisory Services to WNX and have been engaged by them to manage their investor communications.


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