As a result of demands for reform to the Irish Medical Cannabis Access Programme, the Department of Health has announced that patients with a medical cannabis prescription will now be able to access direct payments to assist in covering the cost of their prescriptions.
The Medical Cannabis Access Programme in Ireland was launched in April of 2020 and offered refund for prescribed medical cannabis products. Before the scheme was launched, patients were required to travel to the Netherlands to collect prescriptions which posed substantial difficulties and became impossible after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medical cannabis patients are now eligible to have their medicinal cannabis prescriptions delivered to their door. The Irish government has stated that this will continue after the pandemic. The Irish government will also offer refunds to medical cannabis patients who paid for their medicine to ensure they are fully reimbursed.
The refund scheme forces patients to source the money for their prescriptions upfront which can often be thousands of euros each month. Patients then need to apply to Ireland’s Health Services (HSE) in order to get the refund for their medication.
In most cases, the Irish government appears to have come up with a better medical cannabis system than the existing UK framework. However, it is important to bear in mind that there are only 17 approved medical cannabis patients in Ireland, which obviously means there is a huge issue what needs to be resolved regarding patient access.
At the moment, only three conditions are deemed to be eligible for a medical cannabis prescription in Ireland. They are spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and severe epilepsy which is treatment-resistant.