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Provision for delivery and funding of Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme announced

Legislation underpinning the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme was enacted in June 2019.

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Image: Shutterstock/Tinnakorn jorruang

MINISTER FOR HEALTH Stephen Donnelly has announced the provision for the delivery and funding of the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme. 

Once suitable medical cannabis products are made available by suppliers, the Access Programme will make it possible for a medical consultant to prescribe a listed cannabis-based treatment for a patient under his or her care for a number of medical conditions, only where the patient has failed to respond to standard treatments. 

The medical conditions are: 

  • Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis
  • Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy
  • Severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy

Legislation underpinning the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme was enacted in June 2019.

The first stage of the Programme was to have potential suppliers apply to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) to have their cannabis-based products assessed for suitability for medical use.

Currently four products have been assessed as acceptable by the HPRA.

Further products are currently being assessed and if assessed as acceptable, will be added to the schedule of products for inclusion in the Programme.

The HSE will establish and maintain an electronic register for the Medical Cannabis Access Programme to facilitate the enrolment and recording of certain data including patient identifiers (in anonymised format), prescribers enrolled in the programme, as well as prescribed/supplied medical cannabis products.

“The purpose of this Programme is to facilitate compassionate access to cannabis for medical reasons, where conventional treatment has failed,” Donnelly said. 

“It follows the clear pathway laid out by the Health Products Regulatory Authority in their expert report ‘Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review’,” he said. 

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“Ultimately it will be the decision of the medical consultant, in consultation with their patient, to prescribe a particular treatment, including a cannabis-based treatment, for a patient under their care.” 

Donnelly added that “it is important to state that there are no plans to legalise cannabis in this country”. 

Pending the commencement of the Access Programme clinicians and their patients have been availing of a licence under the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977-2016 in order to prescribe and administer cannabis-based products. The commencement of the Access Programme will not affect these patients.

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