Since Australia legalised medical cannabis in 2016, there has been an increase in both cannabis news and research on medical cannabis across Australia. This new information aims to help Aussies better understand how this alternative treatment can be used and, hopefully, improve medical cannabis access.
There are several key organisations – both publicly and privately funded – that have been spearheading this research in Australia. It is ongoing and focuses on several different treatment areas.
New South Wales Research on Medical Cannabis
Elected leadership in NSW has been busy coordinating research on medical cannabis. For one, they created the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation, which seeks to educate the public about treatment, develop rules and regulations, and oversee clinical trials.
So far, clinical trials have begun in three research areas:
Improving epilepsy symptoms in children with serious forms of the condition
Helping to increase appetites in cancer patients in palliative care
Helping chemo patients reduce vomiting and stomach upset.
The NSW government also established the NSW Cannabis Medicines Advisory Service. This organisation gives both resources and expert advice to doctors who may want to start writing medical cannabis prescriptions for their patients.
They have also provided funding and education to a host of organisations and professionals and worked with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to create official clinical documents. This guidance helps doctors working with epilepsy, palliative care, pain, cancer, and MS patients.
Australian Center for Cannabinoid Clinical and Research Excellence
The Australian Center for Cannabinoid Clinical and Research Excellence (ACRE) is a federally funded research organisation. Composed of more than 20 expert researchers from a variety of educational backgrounds, ACRE’s goal is to fill the gap in medical cannabis research.
Their mission is to develop the research questions that need to be investigated, transition theoretical ideas into everyday practice, help create care infrastructure in Australia, and inform regulatory practices – all within the realm of medical cannabis treatment.
Their research on medical cannabis falls into three categories at ACRE:
Plant science (to better understand cannabis plants)
Drug development (to create the best cannabis medications)
Health policy (to turn research into informed on-the-ground practice)
ACRE also has medical cannabis clinical trials of its own, mainly operating in the NSW region. These trials include one that’s enrolling cancer patients with appetite and stomach issues and another that’s enrolling seniors with dementia diagnoses.
Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics
The Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics was created when couple Barry and Joy Lambert donated $33.7 million to the University of Sydney. The Lamberts were motivated to start this organisation as their granddaughter has severe paediatric epilepsy.
The Lambert Initiative also funds medical cannabis research into areas other than epilepsy, such as mental health issues, chronic pain, cancer, obesity, and more. They are headquartered within the Brain and Mind Centre at the university and study a broad swath of cannabis topics.
One notable study funded by the Lambert Initiative was published in the Harm Reduction Journal. It concluded that since medical cannabis became legal in Australia, more Aussies use it instead of illicit cannabis, with better outcomes.
As for clinical trials, the Lambert Initiative is conducting several. Research areas include:
Spinal cord injuries
Concussions sustained while playing sports
Cannabis News and the Future of Medical Cannabis Research
The medical cannabis research initiatives in Australia will undoubtedly increase our knowledge and understanding of what this alternative therapy may be able to treat – and hopefully expand access for potential patients.
If you’re curious as to whether you might be eligible for medical cannabis, book an appointment with a doctor at a medical cannabis clinic or your local GP. They can help you figure out if a prescription is right for you, talk through the risks and help you work out a treatment plan.