Historic PBS listing of cannabis for Dravet syndrome

Epidyolex (cannabidiol, CBD) has been added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for the treatment of Dravet syndrome, a rare and drug-resistant form of epilepsy. The addition is reported to be the first medicinal cannabis product to be funded by the PBS, bringing the medicinal cannabis industry a huge step forward to becoming more affordable and accessible to Australian patients.

Aside from subsidised treatment, over the last two years, a 15-fold increase in cannabis use has been described in FreshLeaf Analytics’ H1 2021 report.

Manufactured by UK pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals, Epidyolex is a CBD product for children suffering from rare forms of epilepsy, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox–Gastaut syndrome, which are resistant to conventional medications. The treatment will be subsidised only for sufferers of Dravet syndrome.

CA Clinics embraces the addition, noting that the PBS listing is estimated to benefit 116 patients per year in Australia. According to FreshLeaf Analytics, patients (of all conditions) spend an average of $359 a month on medicinal cannabis. Patients would usually pay more than $24,000 a year for Epidyolex, but will now pay $41.30 per script or $6.60 with a concession card.

“This is a huge jump for Australia’s medicinal cannabis industry,” said Dr Mark Hardy, Medical Director and Addiction Specialist at CA Clinics. “As an Authorised Prescriber, my role is limited in what I can do for patients who cannot afford these treatments. Where indicated, I must currently direct them to other PBS-listed products, some of which have already been tried without success or carry unacceptable side effects.

“I hope this creates an environment in which more medicinal cannabis products could be considered for financial support by the Australian Government, and in turn open accessibility to a greater cohort of patients.”

CA Clinics Managing Director Cassandra Hunt said, “The availability of Epidyolex on the PBS is great news for sufferers of Dravet syndrome, and sets a precedent for more affordable patient access to future medicinal cannabis products registered in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.”

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