New medical cannabis in place, but Stephen Donnelly says he has no plans to legalize it in Ireland
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly introduced funding and resources for patients prescribed the drug in very limited accessibility circumstances. From today, some patients in Ireland will be able to access medicinal cannabis through the health service. However, as in the UK, cannabis products will only be available to patients with a limited number of conditions.
Cannabis has officially been part of the Irish health service since today.
However, funding and means of access to the drug, for patients who have been prescribed it, remains very limited.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced funding for the program, which will allow specialist clinicians to prescribe medical cannabis for a small number of conditions. Patients may be prescribed cannabis-based medicines for muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis, nausea caused by chemotherapy and severe forms of epilepsy.
Access to medicines measures echo those currently in place in the UK, where medical cannabis was legalized in 2018. In a statement, Mr. Donnelly said “One of the enhancements to our healthcare services that will benefit from this additional funding is the Medical Cannabis Access Program which has been added to the HSE's service plan for 2021.
"The aim of this program is to facilitate compassionate access to cannabis for medical reasons, where conventional treatment has failed."
Governments in Europe are under increasing pressure to expand medical cannabis programs as the public takes a more liberal stance towards the drug. However, most European countries have yet to establish a medical cannabis industry like those in Canada and some US states.
"Ultimately, it is the medical consultant who will decide, in consultation with his patient, to prescribe a particular treatment, including a treatment based on cannabis, for a patient in his care."Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly continued:
Ireland's new medical treatment program for cannabis is expected to be similar to that in the UK, where access to drugs through the NHS has been scarce. Instead, many patients gain access to their medications through private cannabis clinics across the country.
Cannabis flower will remain banned for both medical and recreational purposes, with only licensed cannabinoid pharmaceuticals available under the medical cannabis program. Doctors have yet to embrace medical cannabis as a routine option, even for government-approved conditions. This is often due to a lack of clinical evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of the products.