The number of Australian patients being subscribed medicinal cannabis has risen a gigantic 1,191 per cent year-on-year, according to new data.

Some 14,357 patients were approved medicinal cannabis, compared with 1,112 this time last year, and FreshLeaf Analytics, which covers all things cannabis in Australia, reckons there will be in excess of 28,000 new patient approvals by the end of the calendar year.

However, despite the statistics, it would be folly to suggest medicinal cannabis has become readily available in Australia overnight.

Peter Crock, the CEO of Cann Group (ASX:CAN), which hopes to provide Australian medicinal cannabis to patients but is waiting on regulatory approval, told Stockhead earlier this week patient access to the drug had not accelerated.

An Australian documentary released earlier this year, High as Mike, documented the struggles of many Australians trying to access the drug, which is currently only available under the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) special access scheme (SAS), which allows patients use only under “exceptional clinical circumstances”.

Products prescribed under the SAS are not eligible for government subsidy under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

A number of ASX-listed small caps have products available via the SAS, including Cann, MGC Pharma (ASX:MXC), Althea (ASX:AGH) and Medlab (ASX:MDC).

FreshLeaf outlined prohibitive costs as the biggest barrier for increased patient access to medicinal cannabis, saying that while cheaper products have started to become available, there was room for more price support.

“The good news for patients is that while the product prices have stabilised, the greater availability of cheaper products has resulted in overall lower monthly costs for the patient,” it said.

“One obstacle to costs coming down even further remains – the lack of federal government subsidy, via the PBS.

“Patient growth continues at break-neck speed, but is still far from reaching its full potential, leaving a huge opportunity for product innovation, diversification and addressable patient outreach.”

The number of products available has jumped 40 per cent to 76 in the past six months, and FreshLeaf said the Australian medicinal cannabis industry could grow to around $50m of annualised revenue by the end of the year.