Medsafe has taken a step towards easier access to one medicinal cannabis product by allowing access over the counter at pharmacies, though any approved products in this category are still some time away.
Medsafe has reclassified the medicinal cannabis product, cannabidiol (CBD), from a prescription-only medicine to a restricted (pharmacist-only) medicine, aligning our approach with Australia, which made a similar change in December 2020.
While no CBD products are currently approved in New Zealand, this change means that from today, any low-dose CBD product which becomes approved in the future can be supplied by registered pharmacists to patients over 18 years. No products in this category are available in Australia either at this stage. In general, these are products that would be used to treat minor ailments.
The decision follows careful consideration of the risk-benefit profile of low-dose CBD by Medsafe, and includes consultation with healthcare professionals, industry, and the public.
Those in the CBD industry have also previously signalled that a change in classification may allow more opportunities for research into the clinical efficacy and safety of CBD. Subsequently, this could create greater opportunities for the approval of low-dose CBD medicines.
Until now, the main route for supplying CBD in Aotearoa was as a medicinal cannabis product which was not approved by Medsafe but did meet the minimum quality standards of the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Regulations. This meant that it could only be accessed via a prescription from a registered medical practitioner (i.e. a doctor).
This classification change will mean that if in the future, a CBD product is shown to have a positive risk-benefit balance in terms of safety and efficacy, and is approved by Medsafe as meeting both national and international standards, it can be supplied at a pharmacy following consultation between the patient and pharmacist.
More detailed information about this classification change can be found on the Medsafe website:
The published Gazette notice is also available: