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Exploring the Surging Demand: A Look into the Rising Prescription Numbers for Medicinal Cannabis in New Zealand

by | Apr 5, 2024

The surging growth in prescription numbers for medicinal cannabis products continues to rise in New Zealand. This trend underscores a growing acceptance and recognition of the therapeutic potential of cannabis-based treatments. According to data provided by the Ministry of Health, the increase in prescriptions for both CBD and THC-based products has been remarkable, reflecting a shifting landscape in healthcare practices and patient preferences.  Let’s dive into the numbers and explore the exiting implications of this upward momentum.

 

The Rise of Medicinal Cannabis Prescriptions:

The Ministry of Health data reveals a massive upward trend in the prescription numbers for medicinal cannabis products from 2018 to 2023.

Let’s break down the numbers:

  • In 2018, there were 2,120 prescriptions for CBD-based products, while THC-based prescriptions stood at zero (due to legalisation), with a combined total of 216 prescriptions for CBD+THC products.
  • By 2019, there was a significant jump in prescriptions across the board. CBD prescriptions surged to 6,993, new program THC prescriptions began at 33, and combined CBD+THC prescriptions reached 365.
  • The year 2020 marked another substantial increase, with CBD prescriptions reaching 21,964, THC prescriptions climbing to 229, and combined prescriptions totalling 1,605.
  • In 2021, the trend continued with CBD prescriptions rising to 27,155, THC prescriptions reaching 2,611, and combined CBD+THC prescriptions escalating to 6,620, a 53% increase over prior year.
  • In 2022, CBD prescriptions reached 37,298, THC prescriptions rose to 5,354, and combined prescriptions soared to 21,065, the total prescriptions representing a 75% increase from the previous year.
  • Last year (2023), CBD prescriptions surged to 62,015, THC prescriptions skyrocketed to 11,319, and combined prescriptions peaked at 82,996. This shows a total increase on prescriptions of 145%.

*Figures provided from: Ministry of Health

Analysing the Trends:

Several factors contribute to the increasing demand for medicinal cannabis products in New Zealand. Firstly, there is growing awareness among healthcare professionals and patients regarding the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis-based treatments.

Moreover, changes in regulatory frameworks have facilitated easier access to medicinal cannabis products for patients. The implementation of the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme in 2020, which allows for the cultivation, manufacture, and distribution of medicinal cannabis products in New Zealand, has streamlined the process for patients to obtain prescriptions.

Furthermore, the destigmatisation of cannabis use for medicinal purposes has played a crucial role in driving patient demand. As perceptions surrounding cannabis evolve, more individuals are open to exploring alternative treatment options, including medicinal cannabis, particularly when conventional therapies have proven ineffective or come with undesirable side effects.

Regulatory changes:

In 2023, the New Zealand Ministry of Health aligned New Zealand regulations around low-dose CBD with Australia’s, allowing products to be pharmacist only once they have undergone clinical trial and approvals from the Ministry of Health.

There are also changes coming to the NZ Medicinal Cannabis regulatory framework which involve amending regulations to better support economic and research opportunities for the medicinal cannabis industry.

 

The increasing prescription numbers for medicinal cannabis products in New Zealand reflect a shifting paradigm in healthcare, where patients are seeking alternative treatments to manage their medical conditions. As research continues to elucidate the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids, it is imperative that healthcare professionals, policymakers, and stakeholders collaborate to ensure that patients have access to safe, effective, and evidence-based medicinal cannabis treatments. By embracing this emerging health modality and industry, New Zealand can pave the way for innovative approaches to healthcare and improve the quality of life for countless individuals.

 

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