Something we hear from our patients all the time “I would love to try medical cannabis, but it’s seems so expensive!”

Even though the past has shown that this has been an expensive and inaccessible treatment option – times are changing, and Tetra Health can help.

Medical cannabis medicines can be quite costly in Australia – averaging about 20-40% higher than most other countries with medical programs. The high cost of product is largely because 90% of the medicines available in Australia are being imported from Canada and Europe, which means a higher cost to ship the medicine and logistic fees of storing it in scheduled facilities and shipping the product to Pharmacy each time a patient orders.

Unlike other countries that have a supplier which ships directly to the patient, Pharmacies dispense to patients in Australia, where an additional margin is added on top of the cost of the medicine. Unlike other margins on Pharmaceutical Medicines (which usually fall at 11%), there is no regulation on medical cannabis, and because of this we see usually see a range of 20-30% margin. Pharmacies that Tetra Health work with are on the lower end of this range as they deal in larger volumes of product, and in some cases, can order in bulk through our Authorised Prescribers, reducing overall fees.

Although the above may seem a little grim, there is good news – every day new producers are entering the Australian Market (both domestic and international) which is driving prices down and making medical cannabis more affordable for patients. There are now over 25 manufacturers / suppliers and 80+ different medicines in Australia, which is great for supply and demand and patient access, with prices continuing to drop every month.

How much does medical cannabis cost?

Most of the approved medicines available in Australia are in oil format, which are taken sublingually under the tongue, providing a slow-release and longer duration of action. Dried flower and capsules are becoming more available, but comparatively can be still quite expensive. Tetra Health prescribes 90% oil products to its patients, mostly for financial reasons, as dried flower starts at about $20 a gram (and as much as $60 a gram). In Canada, comparatively, you would see a range of $5-$12 for a gram.

When Tetra reviewed our optimal dose data for our patients (the daily dose that patients / physicians reach by slowly increasing over time, which gives the best results with the least amount of side effects), we found some interesting results! Over 70% of our patients across many conditions (namely arthritic conditions, fibromyalgia, other chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, cancer symptoms, IBS, IBD, Chron’s Disease and spasticity disorders, etc.), were spending on average $5-$8 a day. When we looked at how much oil or flower they were taking, it averaged at 62mg/day of total cannabinoids (eg, CBD, THC or a combination of both).

The great news is that Tetra is product agnostic – meaning we work with any company that is able to provide medical cannabis in Australia that meets quality and assurance standards. We will continue to welcome new suppliers and offer new, lower cost products as soon as they become available. Current suppliers are also reducing pricing, so it may mean your current medication could become much more affordable in the next 3-6 months.

Does the PBS or Health Funds cover any of the costs?

Unfortunately, medicinal cannabis is not currently covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).  To be included on the PBS, the medicine must be registered and approved by the TGA. To be approved, the medicine must be shown safe and effective through clinical trials. The current challenge is that until recently, cannabis has been a prohibited product, and has limitations of being patented as a new drug. Some medicinal cannabis trials are currently underway for various products, but it is unknown how long it will take for them to receive TGA approval and become a registered product.

That said, many of our current patients have been able to recover some of the costs of our consultation fees and prescription costs through their Health Fund. We encourage all patients to reach out to their Health Fund to determine if a portion of your fees can be covered. Many times, our patients successfully titrate (decrease or remove) other medications when starting medical cannabis therapy, so be persistent as in some instances they may have to cover non-PBS listed prescription fees. Tetra can provide required information for our patients demonstrating safety and efficacy of your medication, so please make notes of any requirements your Health Fund may need.

Tetra has also assisted numerous patients retrieve medical cannabis reimbursements through the Department of Veteran Affairs, Work Cover and ComCare and lower-cost rates through Observational Studies our clinic is running. Please enquire about this during your Nurse Consultation and our team would be happy to assist in helping determine if you qualify for any of these compassionate schemes.

As of January 2019, there are an estimated 9,000+ patients in Australia. With an estimated population of approximately 400,000 potential patients, we will continue to see prices drop and treatment to become more affordable as demand increases and Tetra Health is here to help you along the way. Keep up to date with what’s going on in the medical cannabis industry by subscribing to our Newsletter below.

 __________________________________________________________________________________________________

Get in touch with one of our friendly nurses by calling our toll free line at the top of this page, or emailing patients@tetrahealth.com to see if CBD oil could be appropriate for your condition.

Tetra Health is product agnostic, meaning we have access to any legal CBD oil in Australia for medical purposes – which means a lot of options for different symptoms and conditions.

Keep in mind, right now, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3-$10 a day, but these prices are set to drop as more domestic suppliers enter the market.

Interested in Getting started? This is how the process works with Tetra!