Medical cannabis is now being legally prescribed for 16 patients in Ireland, it has emerged.
They must get a special licence renewed every three months, according to Health Minister Simon Harris.
He revealed recent developments on access to cannabis for patients may prompt a review of policy over time, which currently bans its cultivation for medical purposes.
However, he said the Department of Health’s priority at this time was the sourcing of suitable quality-approved, affordable, finished cannabis products for medical purposes.
Mr Harris, who was responding to Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly, said that considerable progress was being made in relation to the introduction of cannabis for a medical use access programme here.
Currently, doctors in Ireland can use a ministerial licensing system to prescribe medical cannabis for their patients.
There are claims it can ease seizures in adults and children and reduce symptoms of inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, but the evidence is not conclusive.
Some 29 licences have now been granted in respect of 16 individual patients.
“Licences are valid for a period of three months initially and for six months for subsequent licences,” he said.
An expert group has drawn up clinical guidance for healthcare professionals treating patients through the access programme.
“The HSE has been requested to establish and maintain a register to facilitate the programme and work is continuing in relation to the sourcing of appropriate quality-controlled, affordable cannabis-based products for Irish patients,” said Mr Harris.
“Drafting of secondary legislation to underpin the access programme continues and will be finalised once appropriate cannabis product supplies have been established.”
He said that to the department’s knowledge only Canada and the Netherlands permitted export of such cannabis products beyond their borders.
“The Netherlands permits exports of cannabis dried herb, but does not permit commercial export of their oil-based cannabis formulations.
“Department officials are working intensively on finding solutions to the supply of appropriate products for Irish patients, in parallel to their ongoing work on other significant projects,” he added.
“As a result of extensive recent discussions with Danish and UK counterparts, Department of Health officials are now in contact with a number of potential suppliers of medical cannabis. These discussions may take some time to become productive.”
Until suitable medical cannabis products are made available in Ireland, prescribers and their patients are sourcing the product from a pharmacy in the Netherlands, on foot of their medical prescription.
Source: Irish Independent