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Medical Cannabis Dispensing Tips Blog 1

To help your pharmacy fill medical cannabis prescriptions with ease and confidence, we’ve put together some tips for dispensing medical cannabis.

With nearly 39,000 patient approvals granted for medical cannabis in the first four months of 2022, compared to 31,000 approvals in 2021 and 14,000 in 2020, the number of pharmacies receiving medical cannabis scripts is skyrocketing.

CV 2020-21 Growth in pharm, dr and pts - graph

Keep reading this blog or skip to a specific tip using the links below to get some insider advice on how to fill a medical cannabis prescription when you receive one in your pharmacy.

Tip 1: Understand the difference between dispensing medical cannabis and other medicines
Tip 2: Familiarise yourself with the medical cannabis dispensing process
Tip 3: Open a medical cannabis wholesale account
Tip 4: Learn the packing, storing & recording requirements
Tip 5: Understand the requirements to dispense medical cannabis

 

Tip 1: Understand the difference between dispensing medical cannabis and other medicines

Most medical cannabis products are currently classified as either Schedule 4 (S4) or Schedule 8 (S8) medicines. If your pharmacy is already set up to dispense S8 medicines, filling medical cannabis prescriptions should be straightforward.

To dispense S8 medicines, your pharmacy must meet the following legal requirements:

  • Dispensing pharmacists must not have any undertakings by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) on their registration.
  • Dispensing pharmacies must meet all requirements and have the appropriate processes for ordering, storing, dispensing, recording, reporting and disposing of unwanted or expired Schedule 8 drugs according to their state or territory legislation.
  • Dispensing pharmacy must meet all other state/territory health department specific requirements. Please ensure you review these requirements regularly as they may continue to change.

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To dispense medical cannabis prescriptions, there are a few additional requirements that pharmacists must adhere to including:

  • Only dispense medicinal cannabis in accordance with a prescription.
  • The pharmacist must verify the prescriber of any medicinal cannabis product.
  • All medicinal cannabis products must be ordered on a per-patient basis against a valid Special Access Scheme B (SAS-B) approval except for prescriptions written by Authorised Prescribers which can be consolidated and ordered per doctor via their relevant AP Approval).
  • Comply with the Guidelines for Dispensing of Medicines published by the Pharmacy Board of Australia.
  • Comply with any conditions imposed on a TGA approval relating to the medicinal cannabis product(s) being used.
  • Comply with all reporting and recording requirements, as set down by the Medicines and Poisons (Medicines) Regulation 2021.
  • Ensure any excess or unused stock is disposed of and destroyed in line with the requirements under the Medicines and Poisons (Medicines) Regulation 2021.
  • Report any adverse events, adverse reactions and unexpected reactions.
  • Retain the dispensed prescription, separately from other prescriptions.

Tip 2: Familiarise yourself with the medical cannabis dispensing process

As most medical cannabis products are not registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), the dispensing process for pharmacists may differ slightly from other prescription medicines in your pharmacy.

Here’s a quick guide to give you a better understanding of the overall process from patient to pharmacy:

  1. If a doctor deems medical cannabis is clinically suitable for their patient, they can write a prescription and submit a TGA approval request through the Special Access Scheme or Authorised Prescriber Scheme

Note: The patient should be advised that it can take up to 10 days to receive TGA approval and hear from their dispensing pharmacy when their medication is ready.

  1. Once approved, the pharmacist will receive the script and TGA approval from the prescribing doctor or occasionally from the patient
  2. The pharmacist can then place a wholesale order for the prescribed product on the CanView platform
  3. Within 48 hours, the goods will be delivered to the pharmacy for dispensing to the patient (patients will either nominate to pick up their goods or have them delivered)

    Note: Most patients will choose at-home delivery. When delivering S8 medicines, you must use an Express Courier postage service.

Tip 3: Open a medical cannabis wholesale account

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Before you begin dispensing medical cannabis, the first step is to open a wholesale account with BHC’s CanView. By registering a free pharmacy account on CanView, you will get the tools and resources to learn about medical cannabis and confidently dispense products from your pharmacy.

To order products on BHC’s CanView and fill your patient’s medical cannabis scripts, here’s the general process you can follow:

Once checked out, the products will be posted to your pharmacy for you to dispense to the patient.

Please note, ordering products on the CanView platform is restricted to health professionals only – patients are not able to order products on this platform.

Tip 4: Learn the packing, storing & recording requirements

Just like any prescription medicine dispensed from your pharmacy, there are certain requirements you must follow when packing, storing and recording prescriptions for medical cannabis.

We’ve put together a few tips on the requirements your pharmacy must follow. However, please be aware that legislation can differ slightly depending on the state/territory your pharmacy is located in.

Packing & space requirements

If your pharmacy is already set up to dispense S8 medicines, you can utilise the same space and dispensing process to fill and pack medical cannabis prescriptions. As patient volume increases, some pharmacists prefer to separate their medical cannabis packing area from their standard S8 packing area.

Storage requirements

Schedule 8 (S8) products:

  • Must be stored separately from other drugs
  • Must be always kept in a locked safe, except when in immediate use
  • Products that require refrigeration must be contained in a lockable refrigerator that is either inside a locked room away from the public or is secured to the premises of a pharmacy.
  • Dispensing pharmacists are the only personnel allowed access to the locked S8 room, refrigerator or safe

Note: If your pharmacy doesn’t already have CCTV installed, we recommend doing so to monitor any receiving and packing areas, as well as entries to locked safes or rooms.

For more details on medical cannabis storage, including storage requirements for S4 products, read our blog on how to store medical cannabis in your pharmacy.

Reporting requirements

Dispensing pharmacists must record all S8 transactions and retain the dispensed prescription, separately from other prescriptions. The records must always reflect the physical balance in the pharmacy’s S8 room or safe. Regular stocktakes should be performed to ensure records are always accurate and up to date.

If a patient notifies the pharmacy of any negative side effects, the pharmacist must report any adverse events, adverse reactions and unexpected reactions.

The pharmacy must comply with all reporting and recording requirements, as set down by the Medicines and Poisons (Medicines) Regulation 2021.

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Tip 5: Understand the requirements to dispense medical cannabis

Most Australian pharmacies can legally dispense medical cannabis.

To dispense unregistered medical cannabis products from your pharmacy, you must meet all legal requirements set by the Australian government and your specific state or territory.

In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) administers the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, which establishes the regulatory framework for all medicines in Australia, including medical cannabis.

The TGA provides medical cannabis information and resources for health professionals on their Medicinal cannabis information for health professionals page.

As medical cannabis is also regulated by state/territory health departments, it’s important for dispensing pharmacists to check their relevant state/territory legislation. Here’s a list of each health department’s medical cannabis information pages:

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Whether your already dispensing medical cannabis or about to begin, educating yourself and your pharmacy team on cannabis medicine and the dispensing requirements is a great place to start.

To start your journey and prepare your pharmacy to fill medical cannabis scripts, open your wholesale account on BHC’s CanView.

 

Disclaimer:

The contents in this article donotconstitutelegal advice, arenotintended to be a substitute forlegal adviceand shouldnotbe relied upon as such. You should seeklegal adviceor other professionaladvicein relation to any matters you or your organisation may have. Information in this article was correct at time of publishing but please check your own state regulations for updates. 

CanView does not endorse the use of medicinal cannabis without lawful prescription. Just like any medicine, medicinal cannabis may have both positive and negative side effects on the user and should only be prescribed to patients by a health professional with the authority and expertise to do so. The information provided by CanView is for informational and educational purposes and is of a general nature. Patients considering medical cannabis are advised to speak to their general practitioner first to see if it’s a suitable therapy.