The Department of Health in Dublin has confirmed that the ‘to your door’ delivery of medical cannabis for those with a license is a temporary measure.
It’s been a difficult year for the Medical Cannabis Access Program (MCAP) which launched under then Minister for Health, Simon Harris. While the pilot scheme is in place for five years, the scheme is still not operational following issues around pricing and availability.
The first stage of the programme encourages cannabis pharmaceutical companies to submit product applications for inclusion. There are currently only three products attached to the programme; Aurora High CBD Oil Drops, CannaEpil and Tilray Oral Solution THC:10:CBD10 25ml.
Although none of these have been prescribed to patients, despite the introduction of the scheme in June 2019.
Medical cannabis medication, Bedrocan, was available on the previous system in Ireland which saw individual licenses granted on a case-by-case basis. As GPs are unable to prescribe Bedrocan in Ireland, patients must travel to the Netherlands to collect their medication.
In an email to The CANNAVIST in September 2020, The Irish Department of Health confirmed that the makers of Bedrocan have not applied to join MCAP.
“An Application by manufacturers of cannabis-based products must be made to the Health Products Regulatory for products to be considered for inclusion in Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs (Prescription and control of supply of cannabis for medical use) Regulations 2019. Bedrocan has not made such an application.”
Due to travel restrictions caused by COVID-19, Irish medical cannabis patients have been getting their medications delivered by courier, instead of having to collect it abroad in person.
However, this has been confirmed as a temporary measure which would see patients potentially facing more journeys abroad for their medication.
“Until products are available in Ireland it has been necessary for clinicians and their patients to obtain the products from abroad. Due to the Covid19 pandemic and during the resulting travel restrictions and quarantine requirements the Department has been operating a temporary emergency collection and delivery process.”
The programme has also been criticised for not including chronic pain. Similar to the guidelines in the UK, prescriptions can only be granted for those with spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and severe, treatment resistant epilepsy.
The cost of delivery
It was revealed in August that the Department of Health spent close to €9,000 on couriers to collect and deliver medication from the Netherlands for patients who have not been able to travel during the pandemic. It has also been confirmed there are currently 49 patients with licenses in Ireland.