Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, has announced provision for the delivery and funding of the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme.

Minister Donnelly said: “The Budget in October 2020 saw an extra €4 billion added to the Health Budget. This increase is indicative of how determined we in Government are to fund an expansion of, and improvements in, our health and social care services. One of the improvements in our health services that will benefit from this extra funding is the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme, which has been added to the HSE Service Plan for 2021. 

“The purpose of this Programme is to facilitate compassionate access to cannabis for medical reasons, where conventional treatment has failed. It follows the clear pathway laid out by the Health Products Regulatory Authority in their expert report, Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review.

“Ultimately, it will be the decision of the medical consultant, in consultation with their patient, to prescribe a particular treatment, including a cannabis-based treatment, for a patient under their care. It is important to state that there are no plans to legalise cannabis in this country.”

Once suitable medical cannabis products are made available by suppliers, the Access Programme will make it possible for a medical consultant to prescribe a listed 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 epilepsy.

Legislation underpinning the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme was enacted in June 2019. The first stage of the Programme was to have potential suppliers apply to the HPRA to have their cannabis-based products assessed for suitability for medical use. Currently, four products have been assessed as acceptable by the HPRA. Further products are currently being assessed and if acceptable, will be added to the schedule of products for inclusion in the Programme.

The HSE will establish and maintain an electronic 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.