Medicinal cannabis on the cards for some patients

A report recommends the drug for some patients with "specified conditions who have not responded to other treatments"

Medicinal cannabis on the cards for some patients

File photo. Picture by Rich Pedroncelli AP/Press Association Images

The Health Minister says he intends to make medicinal cannabis available for patients with specific conditions.

A Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) report on medicinal cannabis has been published this morning.

It recommends that the drug should only be made available to patients with specified conditions who have not responded to other treatments.

The conditions specified are:

  • Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis
  • Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy;
  • Severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy

Professor Tony O'Brien, chairman of the HPRA's expert working group, suggested that "the use of cannabis products would be initiated under expert medical supervision on a trial basis".

According to the HPRA: "The scientific evidence supporting the safe and effective use of cannabis products for medical treatment is insufficient and at times conflicting. Therefore, if a policy decision on access to cannabis for medicinal use is to be made, it advises that this must be controlled and confined to the treatment of specified medical conditions."

Health Minister Simon Harris said he was 'very pleased' to publish the report.

He said: “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," he added.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health will now examine the report, and health officials will begin looking at how the access programme will operate.