Who is eligible for Plant-based medicine in Australia?

Even though plant-based medicines have been legal Australia-wide since 2016, many people still don’t understand if they meet the eligibility criteria for plant-based medicines.

In this blog, we take you through the three main questions to determine your eligibility for plant-based medicines, if you are deemed by your medical practitioner to have a medical need. 

Ultimately, the decision to prescribe plant-based medicines for a patient lies with general practitioners, specialists, and nurse practitioners. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is responsible for the regulation of plant-based medicines and the approval of all applications for patient use of plant-based medicines.

The three main questions

The questions that can help determine the likelihood of eligibility for plant-based medicine are:

1. Do you have a chronic medical condition or conditions that may be treated by plant-based medicine? 

There’s no exhaustive official list of medical conditions compiled by the TGA which limit the conditions for which plant-based medicines can be used.  Consequently, a practitioner can technically apply for plant-based medicine for any condition, provided other eligibility criterias are satisfied and the medical practitioner can provide evidence supporting the use of plant-medicine for treatment of the condition.  However, the TGA has approved the use of plant-based medicines for a wide range of conditions.  A list of those conditions are summarized in this current list from the TGA: here is a current list.

2. Have you tried other treatments for your medical condition(s)? 

This is a tricky question. How many treatments need to be tried before a patient is eligible to be prescribed a plant-based medicine? Does taking over-the-counter medications count as a treatment for this purpose? 

Plant-based medicine is not available as either a first or even second-line treatment in Australia. However, you don’t need to exhaust all available treatments before becoming eligible for a plant-based medicine. Both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments may count as other treatments. 

3. Have those prior treatments ‘failed’ to provide relief of symptoms from your medical condition? 

Ultimately, it’s your medical practitioner that will have to establish, using evidence, that previous treatments have failed to relieve you from your symptoms.  ‘Failure’ for this purpose means that the previous treatment must not have improved your condition or improved your quality of life, or is not well-tolerated even though it worked.

The biggest misconception

Having considered the three main questions, you might be interested to know that one of the biggest misconceptions, if not the biggest, is that plant-based medicine can only be accessed as an absolute last resort. 

Professor John Skerrit, a Department Secretary and The Department of Health and representative of the TGA has clarified this point:

“I want to clarify: it’s not that all other options have been exhausted. This is the Special Access Scheme for unapproved medicines, there is a requirement in law that they have to explain what they’ve tried, and it (cannabis) would generally not be seen as first line. We have heard today incorrectly that this scheme is only for if every other single medicine has been exhausted…”

Linked below is a video that explains plant-based medicine eligibility in Australia explained by Clare Barker, General Manager for Entoura


If you are exploring plant-based medicine for your difficult medical condition, you should talk to your medical practitioner. If you would like to learn more about plant-based medicine, you can also speak to our pharmacists. They are extensively trained in plant-based medicine and are available to take your call.

Disclaimer: Heathershaw’s Compounding Pharmacy does not promote the use of plant-based medicines for all patients. Our pharmacists will refer you to an affiliated doctor or clinic who may further assess your clinical requirements. For medical advice, speak to your general practitioner. Plant-based medicines in Australia are accessed via the Special Access Scheme or Authorised Prescriber Scheme and are regulated by the TGA.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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