The National Health Service is looking to inject the nation with a new form of medicinal cannabis, but there is no doubt the herb will be more expensive.
A joint inquiry commissioned by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Scott Morrison has been studying the benefits of a cannabis oil, with the aim of offering “cost-effective” alternatives to prescription drugs, the ABC understands.
“The main aim is to make cannabis available to the public at a lower cost,” an official with the inquiry told the ABC.
The inquiry has found that the drug can be delivered in pill form, rather than the oil which is available in capsules, and the cost of the drug is lower than that of a pharmaceutical drug.
The government’s initial plans were for the drug to be available for $80 a bottle, but the report says this could rise to $130 a bottle once prices are adjusted.
The costs of the drugs include lab tests, potency testing, monitoring and dispensing, and it has also found there are many more health problems associated with the drug than what is being assessed.
It is also expected to cost more than a drug to produce, which could affect the number of people using the drug.
“Cannabis has proven itself to be a valuable therapeutic agent,” the report states.
The report also recommends a range of health problems, including high blood pressure and diabetes, be treated with cannabis.
The drug’s makers are also concerned that “the risk of abuse and misuse of cannabis may have increased”.
The report says cannabis has been used in China for thousands of years, but is now widely used in Australia, and that there are “no clear data” on the health effects of the herb.
“There are risks associated with cannabis, including its potential for use in a range the use of the substance as a psychoactive drug, as a recreational drug, and in other ways,” the review states.
It also warns of the risks associated, such as respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
However, Dr Robert Wood of the University of Queensland told the Herald Sun newspaper there was no evidence of any adverse effects from cannabis.
“People are getting their lungs burnt by inhaling smoke, and even worse it’s also a known cause of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiac problems,” Dr Wood said.
Dr Wood also said there was little evidence of the plant being linked to “other types of respiratory diseases”.
“There is very little evidence that cannabis is associated with lung cancer or other respiratory problems,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said it was reviewing the report, but would not comment further.
“We’re committed to continuing to support the research and analysis that’s led to the recommendation,” the spokesperson said.