Last week, the minister signed legislation to allow for the operation of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme on a pilot basis for five years.
The medicinal cannabis access scheme now makes it possible for a medical consultant to prescribe a cannabis-based treatment for a patient under his or her care, but only for patients with specific medical conditions, where the patient has failed to respond to standard treatments.
These conditions are:
spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis
intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy
severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy
While the new programme has been welcomed, some TDs have said it does not go far enough, and have called for the list of conditions to be expanded.
People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny, who has long campaigned for access to medicinal cannabis to be legislated for, said sufferers of chronic pain would benefit from the cannabis-based products.
He said the “omission of chronic pain” from the list was glaring, and that many patients, some of whom are getting pain relief from opioids, would benefit from being allowed to gain access to cannabis products under the new law.
One such example is Clare McAfee, who, writing for TheJournal.ie earlier this year, said she was prescribed fentanyl, a dangerous and highly addictive synthetic opiate with horrible side effects, for her chronic pain. She said she would like to be prescribed cannabis instead.
Harris told the deputy that as minister he has to be guided by scientific evidence and by the experts that advise his office.
“The HPRA (Health Products Regulatory Authority) report did not recommend the inclusion of chronic pain in the access programme, but I reassure the deputy, who has taken a close interest in the development of the programme, that this position will be kept under review and if better clinical evidence becomes available in the future, the inclusion of conditions such as chronic pain can be considered,” said Harris to Deputy Kenny.
Source: Christina Finn, The Journal, 3rd July 2019