We are pleased to announce that our first patients have received their DVA funded medicinal cannabis! This is a huge milestone for our clinic and also for the patients who will hopefully see benefits from their treatment.
We decided this would be a good time to update you all about the process and give you a bit more detail about how things are going so far.
The process of getting the DVA to pay for medicinal cannabinoids isn’t as quick as we all would like, and unfortunately, yes, there are costs involved to get to the approval point, but there is a pathway and it is now proven.
This is what the journey looks like for veterans interested in exploring medicinal cannabis as a treatment option (as a point of note, some of our DVA patients are also participating in a PTSD Study using products from medicinal cannabis company BOD, but the access pathway is the same for all DVA patients regardless of whether they are in the study or not):
1. Screening: So far more than 100 patients have been screened by our clinic. The purpose of the screening is to make sure you are likely to be approved by both the TGA and the DVA. You need to have tried conventional therapies and your condition has to be something that cannabis might help. It is (currently at least) a fairly complex journey and we want to make sure your chances of approval are good before too much time, effort and money is spent. It is important to note that the screening cost, which is done by our clinical team, is $25. We’d love to be able to provide the screening at no cost and hope one day funds will be available to do this.
Please note that the DVA framework requires for your specialist doctor (pain specialist, psychiatrist etc) to support your application so if you don’t think that will be possible, then screening may not be for you.
2. Clinics Appointment: So far, the Cannabis Access doctors have seen 25 DVA patients through our program. It generally takes 20-30 minutes for the appointment and there are doctor costs involved ($200 for the doctor consult, $250 for the approval paper work and $80 for a follow up consult – see details on our FAQ page). The purpose of the consult is for our doctor to decide if medicinal cannabis is the right treatment for you, and if so, prescribe the most suitable medication for your condition.
3. TGA Approval: Every patient in Australia using medicinal cannabis (legally at least!) needs sign-off from Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). So far our clinic has a 100% approval rate and this applies to DVA patients as well, with all 25 patients receiving this greenlight. The TGA has become quite efficient at these approvals in the last few years and this step usually only takes a day or two.
4. DVA Approval: The final step is to get DVA approval, to pay for your medicine. This currently is the most complicated step and takes at least a month. Because the DVA only pays for costs incurred after you are approved (they don’t refund money already spent) many veterans who are approved by the TGA elect to wait until DVA / VAPAC (Veterans‘ Affairs Pharmaceutical Advisory Centre) approves their case before proceeding with treatment.
Why does the DVA approval take so long? There is a fair amount of paperwork involved and in some cases it takes a while for patients to get endorsement from their specialist. Given the high volume and complexity of cases that the DVA assesses, it is important for us to ensure that all required documentation has been received by us, before submitting to avoid any delays. We have a special referral form for DVA members who need to request support from their doctors.
We hope that upfront costs will reduce over time and the process will get faster for everyone as more patients get access and benefits can be observed. Until then, we will do our best to support you on this journey.