Since June, chronic patients with certain ailments have been able to buy cannabis products in pharmacies with a medical prescription and, as it is already subsidised by the State, they can be reimbursed for part of the cost according to Euractiv.
According to this website, the parliamentarian Gino Kenny, a member of the People before Profit party, who has supported the regulation of this plant for years, said, “This marks a milestone achievement for Ireland” as it offers hope to desperate families who have to face prohibitive expenses to obtain these products and even turn to the black market.
Cannabis for medicinal use has been legal in Ireland since December 2016. Legislation includes allowing the use of medicinal cannabis for patients with serious illnesses such as fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. According to Way of Leaf, the government granted the first licence for the use of medicinal cannabis that very same December. Its recipient was a two-year-old boy who suffered from Dravet syndrome, a very severe type of epileptic encephalopathy. But not many more followed - in the next two years only two dozen such licences were granted to seriously ill patients.
The next big step came in June 2019: the then Minister of Health, Simon Harris, launched the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme, currently operating as a five-year pilot programme which allows medical professionals to prescribe treatments using cannabis to their patients (although only in cases of severe epilepsy, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and spasms associated with multiple sclerosis). Furthermore, in order to access cannabis treatment, the patient must have previously tried conventional treatments to no avail. This is another of the points still pending change, Kenny explains to Euractiv. The Irish MP asks, "If it is shown to be effective, why not offer it alongside other treatment options?"
However, until now, patients had to travel to the Netherlands to purchase cannabis products with a doctor's prescription - even with the approved cannabis access programme. As published by the Irish government in a manual for medical cannabis users and patients, "Medical cannabis products that meet accepted quality standards have not yet been made available directly to the Irish market." Until then, the manual states that getting these products will depend on the doctor who prescribes them and the patients, and pinpoints a single pharmacy located in The Hague for this – a trip that adds to the cost of accessing medical cannabis (and which has also become a virtually impossible mission as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic). Since April 2020, shipments of these products from the Netherlands to Ireland have been approved, but until now Irish pharmacies have been unable to sell them.
Furthermore, as shown in this manual, only three cannabis-derived products are approved for medicinal use in Ireland. One of them is the CBD oil produced by the Canadian company Aurora, the cost of which is $74 (€62.50) for a thirty-millimetre bottle; the other two are CannEpil from MGC Pharmaceuticals, which has a retail price of $800 (€675) for a 30-ml bottle, and Tilray FS Oral Solution THC 10: CBD10 from Tilray, which is also Canadian.
Irish agricultural producers have already taken note of this and contacted the country's Health Ministry to push for a legislative change to allow the cultivation of medicinal cannabis in Ireland. According to an investigation published in The Times in October 2020 and conducted on the basis of a request for freedom of information, Fintan Conway (Executive Secretary of the Irish Farmers Association) urged a ministry official that the Government review the limits of THC allowed for cultivation in such a way as to allow the expansion of the medical cannabis sector in the country.
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