The Minister for Health has announced today provisions have been made for the funding and delivery of the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme.
The programme will allow medical consultants to prescribe cannabis based treatments for patients with certain medical conditions.
The treatment will be allowed to be prescribed for spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy.
The legislation was first enacted in 2019 and the Health Products Regulatory Authority have currently approved four different products for use with more being assessed currently.
A number of people have been campaigning for the provision of the medicinal cannabis programme in Ireland including Cork mother Vera Twomey.
Her 11 year old daughter Ava has the rare Dravet syndrome, a severe and intractable condition, which is resistant to drugs.
Vera became desperate to help her child when she ended up having eighteen seizures in just eight hours, and turned to others in the same position.
In October 2015, Vera started a petition that would allow her daughter to be granted an individual license to access medicinal cannabis for therapeutic reasons.
Vera took part in many protests and travelled abroad to acquire the CBD products to help Ava and their family even temporarily moved to the Netherlands in 2017, so Ava could begin her combined THC/CBD treatment where it was legal.
A few months later, there was a breakthrough when Ava was granted a licence to receive the treatments she so needed in her own country.
Very slowly, over months, and under the supervision of her consultant, the drugs Ava had been prescribed by doctors were withdrawn and, since 2018, they have not been part of Ava’s daily routine.
She is now free of pharmaceutical drugs and only takes her CBD and THC medication once in the morning, and again at night.
Vera’s hard-fought battles mean Ava’s seizures are finally under control, she’s walking independently, and has had no emergency hospital admissions for almost three years.
Speaking about the announcement today Minister Donnelly said: “The Budget in October 2020 saw an extra €4billion added to the Health Budget. This increase is indicative of how determined we in Government are to fund an expansion of, and improvements in, our health and social care services.
“One of the improvements in our Health Services that will benefit from this extra funding is the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme which has been added to the HSE Service Plan for 2021.
“The purpose of this Programme is to facilitate compassionate access to cannabis for medical reasons, where conventional treatment has failed. It follows the clear pathway laid out by the Health Products Regulatory Authority in their expert report ‘Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review’.
“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. It is important to state that there are no plans to legalise cannabis in this country.”
The patients who were awarded licenses to access cannabis based products pending the commencement of the programme will not be affected by today’s announcement.