In the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) report “Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review”, the HPRA advised that if access to cannabis is to be permitted for medical purposes that it should only be made available for the treatment of patients with specified medical conditions which have failed to respond to all other previous treatments, and where there is at least modest evidence that cannabis may be effective.
The specified medical conditions (medical indications) are:
1. Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis resistant to all standard therapies and interventions whilst under expert medical supervision;
2. Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, despite the use of standard anti-emetic regimes whilst under expert medical supervision;
3. Severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy that has failed to respond to standard anticonvulsant medications whilst under expert medical supervision.
The HPRA did not consider that the available evidence supported the use of cannabis in other medical conditions.
The MCAP has been included in the HSE Service Plan 2021 and is a five year pilot programme for the treatment of the three specified conditions.
The HSE will establish and maintain a Register for the Medical Cannabis Access Programme to facilitate the enrolment and recording of certain data including patient identifiers (in anonymised format), prescribers enrolled in the programme, as well as prescribed / supplied medical cannabis products.
Pharmacists will be able to dispense cannabis-based products for medical use to patients as set out in the legislation, on foot of a valid prescription, once suppliers make the specified controlled drugs available on the Irish market.