Ireland Pilot Medical Cannabis Program To Start This Year

Medical cannabis in Ireland
Image: Simon Harris TD via Twitter

It’s been a long time coming, but last week Ireland’s Minister for Health signed legislation to kick off a medical cannabis program in the country.

The program will operate on a pilot basis for five years and access will be restricted to patients with the following qualifying conditions.

  • spasticity associate with MS (multiple sclerosis)
  • intractable (not easily managed or controlled) nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy
  • severe, treatment resistant epilepsy

It’s a pretty short list, but it’s a start.

Before medicines will be available, suppliers will need to apply to have their products assessed for suitability. Once medical cannabis products are available, specialist medical consultants will be able to prescribe them. .

“For years, families have fought for this programme to be established and for years, we have faced many challenges, obstacles and hurdles,” said Minister for Health Simon Harris TD last week. “I am so pleased to be here today to advance this Programme and help the lives of many families across the country.”

Ireland’s Health Services (HSE) will meet the cost of cannabis products, assuming the medicines and the way they are sourced by patients tick all the boxes. This will be welcomed by many as medical cannabis preparations that pass muster in government programs are usually horribly expense. The HSE will also be maintaining a register of patients, prescribers and the products accepted under the program.

While the initiative is good news for some, others will be bitterly disappointed that their conditions – such as chronic pain – aren’t included in the pilot. It’s not clear at this point if additional qualifying conditions may be added during the initial 5-year period.

Work on establishing the program began back in March 2017 after a report from the Health Products Regulatory Authority’s (HPRA) – Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review – was tabled, which was prepared at the request of Ireland’s Minister for Health.

Minister  Harris has said the first medicines under the scheme should be available this autumn – so sometime between late September and late December. Further information on Ireland’s pilot medical cannabis program can be found here.