On 26th June 2019, the Minister for Health signed legislation to allow for the operation of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) on a pilot basis for five years.
The Programme will facilitate access to cannabis-based products for medical use in line with legislation and with the clinical guidance for the scheme.
Cannabis products will only be listed in Schedule 1 of the Regulations once they have been considered as suitable for use under the Medical Cannabis Access Programme.
The Medical Cannabis Access Programme will make it possible for a medical consultant to prescribe a cannabis-based treatment for a patient under his or her care for the following medical conditions, where the patient has failed to respond to standard treatments:
- Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis
- Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy
- Severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy.
The following specified controlled drug products (cannabis-based products) have been accepted as being suitable for use under the Medical Cannabis Access Programme:
- Aurora High CBD Oil Drops
- CannEpil Oral Solution
- Tilray Oral Solution THC10:CBD10 25ml
A fourth product, Aurora Sedamen Softgels from Aurora Cannabis Enterprises Inc. has also been recommended by the HPRA to be considered for inclusion in Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs (Prescription and control of supply of cannabis for medical use) Regulations 2019, and legislation is currently being drafted to add this product to the regulations.
Ministerial Licence Route
Pending full operation of the MCAP and for medical indications not included in the MCAP, doctors may continue to utilise the Ministerial licensing route pursuant to Section 14 of the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977-2016 to prescribe cannabis-based products for their patients, should they wish to do so.
In line with the Chief Medical Officer's advice, the granting of a licence for cannabis for medical purposes must be premised on an appropriate application being submitted to the Department of Health, which is endorsed by a consultant who is responsible for the management of the patient and who is prepared to monitor the effects of the treatment over time.
Further information on medical cannabis is available on the Department’s website.
It is important to note that the medical decision to prescribe or not prescribe any treatment, including cannabis treatment, for an individual patient is strictly a decision for the treating clinician, in consultation with their patient. The Minister for Health has no role in this clinical decision-making process.
On the 6th April, the Minister for Health announced an initiative to assist patients access to their medical cannabis products during the COVID-19 pandemic period. The Department of Health has so far organised a number of collections from the Netherlands for patients of clinicians in possession of a ministerial licence under the Misuse of Drugs Act owing to the COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine requirements and the initiative will continue while these are in place.