TGA issues new warning to consumers about ordering black market medicinal cannabis online

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has issued a new warning to consumers about the risks of buying black market medicinal cannabis products online, stating they may be unsafe, of poor quality or contain a different dose than that claimed on the label.

The advice on the TGA website says: “Beware of buying medicines online. It may seem like a simple, affordable option, but products bought over the internet may be a serious risk to your health and a waste of money.

“Products sold on the black market, especially from online sellers that do not request a doctor’s prescription, are unlikely to achieve the desired results and can be very dangerous. 

“Counterfeit (fake) products mimic authentic goods but may contain undeclared hazardous ingredients. A lack of manufacturing and testing standards may also result in contaminated products. Using fake products can put you at serious risk of unpredictable or severe adverse reactions.”

The site spells out how patients can legally access medicinal cannabis if a registered doctor gives them a prescription which they then fill at a pharmacy.

It adds: “With the exception of a very small number of prescription-only products, medicinal cannabis products are not approved medicines in Australia, which means the TGA has not assessed them for safety, quality or effectiveness.”

It goes on to explain that, although pharmacists have been able to supply TGA-approved, low-dose CBD over the counter since February 1, there are no approved products at this time.

“In practice, patients must still obtain a prescription to access any medicinal cannabis product in Australia,” it says.

The TGA also reminds patients there is limited evidence regarding the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis to treat different medical conditions and that little is known about the most suitable doses of individual cannabis products. 

“The TGA has published medicinal cannabis guidance documents to assist doctors in considering medicinal cannabis for the treatment of certain conditions.

“If a doctor determines that an unapproved medicinal cannabis product is suitable for a patient, the doctor can apply to the TGA for access… via the Special Access Scheme (SAS) or the Authorised Prescriber Scheme.”

The site urges patients to seek advice from their doctor before operating machinery or driving due to the risk of drowsiness. Although it acknowledges drowsiness is not a known side effect of CBD alone, it warns drowsiness “may occur if the CBD interacts with other medications you may be taking”.

 “Any advertising that claims a medicinal cannabis product can treat cancer, mental illness, epilepsy or any other serious condition is likely to be breaking the law, even if the advertiser believes there is evidence to support the claim.”

THE TGA’S UPDATED WEBSITE

It adds: “You should not operate machinery or drive while being treated with medicinal products containing the psychoactive substance THC,” and warns that medicinal cannabis bought online may not be accurately labelled for THC levels. 

“You could lose your driver’s licence and be fined if found to be driving under the influence of THC.”

Finally, the site reiterates the fact that advertising medicines that are not in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) is generally prohibited. 

“Unless entered in the ARTG, a medicinal cannabis product has not been assessed by the TGA for safety, quality or effectiveness and therefore advertising it to consumers is inappropriate.

“Many of the diseases and conditions that advertisers claim can be treated or relieved by medicinal cannabis products are either prohibited or restricted by therapeutic goods legislation. 

“For example, any advertising that claims a medicinal cannabis product can treat cancer, mental illness, epilepsy or any other serious condition is likely to be breaking the law, even if the advertiser believes there is evidence to support the claim. These rules protect vulnerable consumers.”

The TGA goes on to spell out the penalties for breaching the advertising rules and urges users to report illegal or questionable practices to them.

Written by: Martin Lane, Cannabiz