Minister for Health, Simon Harris has decided to establish a compassionate access programme for cannabis-based treatments.
The Minister made the announcement when he published the Health Products Regulatory Authority’s report Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review.
The Minister thanked the HPRA and the members of the Expert Review Group for their work on this report which he described as a ‘milestone’ in the development of policy on medicinal cannabis. He had requested the report last November in order to seek expert, scientific advice on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
“I am very pleased to publish this report which reviews the scientific data and provides an overview of the approaches other countries have taken to medicinal cannabis. I understand this is a matter of great concern to many patients, to many colleagues in the Oireachtas and to members of the general public who have contacted me. I believe this report marks a significant milestone in developing policy in this area. This is something I am eager to progress but I am also obligated to proceed on the basis of the best clinical advice.
“The report notes that this is ultimately a societal and policy decision and I have decided to proceed with the advice of the HPRA and establish an access programme for cannabis-based treatments for certain conditions, where patients have not responded to other treatments and there is some evidence that cannabis may be effective.”
The HPRA report advised that, if a policy decision is taken to permit cannabis under an access programme, it should be for the treatment of patients with:
- Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis resistant to all standard therapies and interventions whilst under expert medical supervision;
- Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, despite the use of standard anti-emetic regimes whilst under expert medical supervision;
- Severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy that has failed to respond to standard anticonvulsant medications whilst under expert medical supervision.
- Patients accessing cannabis through the programme should be under the care of a medical consultant and medical information and utilisation data should be kept on a central register.
- The Minister outlined the next steps he will now take:
- The report will be referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health
- Department of Health officials and the HPRA will consult with stakeholders on how the access programme will operate. The Minister says it will be particularly important to engage with the clinical community in the development of a framework.
- Department of Health officials will continue to analyse the report and advise the Minister on legislative changes that may be necessary.