Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Ceisteanna (340)

Brendan Griffin


340. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health his views on a matter regarding medication for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11714/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the Deputy will be aware, I cannot respond to questions regarding individuals, however the following information may be of assistance.

This question raises a query over a PQ reply that was recently issued to Deputy Stephen Donnelly, and specifically that it indicated that the forthcoming Cannabis Access Programme (CAP) would be aligned with the existing Ministerial licence system, whereby patients access medical cannabis products currently from a pharmacy in The Hague.

The reply to the Deputy’s PQ indicated that the Ministerial licence application scheme will continue “to operate in parallel” with the CAP after the CAP becomes operational, for exceptional cases only, where there is an unmet clinical need. The reply did not use the word “align”.

While both the CAP and the Ministerial licence route might run in parallel initially, it is possible that some of the patients currently using the Ministerial licence route might be subsumed into the CAP, should their treating clinician decide to change their current prescribed cannabis medication to a product that will be provided under the CAP. It may not be possible for all the current Ministerial licence holders to transfer immediately into the CAP, however this will be based on a clinical decision.

It is envisaged that over a period, a variety of medical cannabis products, both THC and CBD and manufactured by multiple producers, would be available for use in the CAP.

Travel to The Hague to obtain Bedrocan medical cannabis product after the CAP is introduced may be a necessity for some licence holders and their patients. Due to current Netherlands government policy, Bedrocan products as oil formulations are not permitted to be commercially exported from the Netherlands, but are only supplied in The Hague on foot of a valid medical prescription to the appropriate pharmacy. Notwithstanding the fact that Bedrocan products might ultimately be listed as products that could be accessed under the CAP, until the export barrier is removed by the Netherlands government, anyone who is prescribed Bedrocan oils under the CAP, will have to travel to the Hague to access it.

It is open to any patient to discuss their current prescribed medication with their clinician, and consider whether it might be possible to change it to a product that will be provided under the CAP. To reiterate, this is a clinical decision and as Minister for Health I have no role to play in it.

The Department of Health website contains detailed information on medical cannabis, including clinical guidance on the use of medical cannabis and details on how a medical practitioner may apply for a Ministerial licence. This information can be found at: health.gov.ie/blog/publications/cannabis-for-medical-use.

With reference to the fact that in the UK a distribution company is being used to get Bedrocan medication delivered to patients in the UK. I understand that this company is acting as the patient’s “nominated representative” in the collection of medical cannabis products. No similar Irish entity is known to the Department to provide this service, but it is certainly open to licence holders to engage someone to carry out a collection service.

Finally, I understand that the Transvaal pharmacy in the Hague has confirmed to the Department of Health that there are no supply issues with THC and CBD Bedrocan products to patients and that a three-month supply can be obtained.