An Irishwoman who moved to Spain to access medicinal cannabis has said she no longer needs to take painkillers or attend for regular surgeries.
Alicia Maher from Cork had to move to Spain three years ago because she couldn’t afford to access medicinal cannabis in Ireland.
She is joining a major protest outside the Department of Health calling on the government to expand access to medicinal cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain and other conditions.
The Medical Cannabis Access Programme came into operation in July 2021; however, there are only limited products available for a limited number of conditions.
Meanwhile, medicinal cannabis is not covered under the drugs payment scheme or the medical card – meaning patients are being asked to fork out around €1,000 per month for treatment.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Ms Maher said she has been suffering from different sorts of chronic pain for most of her adult life.
“It just stemmed from a surgery that went wrong,” she said.
“When I was 17, I just went in to have my tonsils removed. I haemorrhaged after that, and I ended up with a colostomy bag on my stomach.
“Now years later, they were supposed to remove the colostomy bag but they found that I had pre-cancer cells in my rectum, so the colostomy bag had to become permanent and it was after that surgery I contracted MRSA and my coccyx bone was broken
“So, I have sciatica, I have nerve pain and I have broken bone pain in my back where the coccyx bone was completely shattered.”
It's now been one year since we moved from Ireland to Spain to access #cannabis to treat my #ChronicPain. @DonnellyStephen, you have not acknowledged a single email from me, can you please sort out the Medical Cannabis Access Programme as I would like to be able to return home. https://t.co/iYygCF8CNH
— Alicia Maher (@AliciaLMaher) November 17, 2020
She said medicinal cannabis has changed her life.
“Before I started medicinal cannabis - I didn’t try it for the first time until three years ago - but before that, I was taking 900 pain killers a month and going in for surgery on my back every four months.
“Since I started cannabis, I have now come off all the medication - so from 900 to zero - and I haven’t had a single procedure on my back since.”
7. And @DonnellyStephen just for comparison, this is my most recent prescription for #cannabis which was dispensed in Spain. My GP and Pain Consultant are going to be appalled at what I was forced to resort to. This is a medicine and the lack of access is putting lives at risk. pic.twitter.com/UH4Pwqc3vK
— Alicia Maher (@AliciaLMaher) October 28, 2021
Ms Maher said her doctor was able to get her medicinal cannabis under ministerial licence; however, it is not affordable.
“When I went to have it dispensed, they said it wasn’t covered under the medical card in the same way as my medication was, and I would have to pay for it privately,” she said.
The cost of the medication here is €1,050 per month, even though I have a medical card and in Spain, it costs about €200 per month.”
She said today’s demonstration has three main aims:
- Expanded medicinal cannabis access to include condition such as chronic pain.
- Include a wider range of products in the scheme.
- Make the programme GP-led rather than consultant-led to address waiting lists.
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