Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Questions (66)

Gino Kenny


66. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to, and his plans to address, the contradiction in granting licences for the prescription of THC products for children with intractable epilepsy but they are then omitted from the cannabis access programme; the steps he will take to include children with intractable epilepsy, with the recommendation of their consultant, in the cannabis access programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12398/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy has been made aware on numerous occasions, there are two separate pathways for accessing cannabis for medical use. Each pathway serves a different purpose and therefore the Deputy's assertion that a contradiction exists is misinterpreted.

For the purposes of clarity the two different access pathways are: 

1. Via Ministerial licence:

Under the Misuse of Drugs legislation the Minister for Health may grant a licence to an Irish registered medical practitioner for access to cannabis for a named patient, where the course of cannabis treatment has been endorsed by a consultant who is responsible for the management of the patient and who is prepared to monitor the effects of treatment over time.

Whilst the legal basis for the granting of licenses exists under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, the decision to prescribe such treatment for an individual patient is a clinical matter and as such will be a decision for the prescribing clinician, in consultation with their patient.

2. Medical Cannabis Access Programme (currently under development)

The Medical Cannabis Access Programme, once operational, will be based on the recommendations of the HPRA's report “Cannabis for Medical Use-A Scientific Review”, and on the ‘Clinical Guidance on Cannabis for Medical Use’ which has been drawn up by an expert group of doctors, pharmacists, patient representatives and scientific experts, to support the Medical Cannabis Access Programme. These guidelines are available on the Department’s website. The guidelines contain detailed information on the use of medical cannabis, including the clinical indications for which cannabis may be prescribed under the access programme. The contents of these guidelines are based on expert clinical advice. It would be wholly inappropriate for a Minister for Health to seek to alter these expert guidelines in any way against the advice of the clinical experts that produced them.

It is intended that the Ministerial licence application scheme will continue to operate in parallel with the Cannabis for Medical Use Access Programme, after the programme becomes operational, for exceptional cases only where there is an unmet clinical need.