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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 332 & 333 - Cannabis for medicinal use [42648/17].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 332 & 333 - Cannabis for medicinal use [42648/17]. (10 Oct 2017)

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332. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Health the date on which the compassionate access programme for medicinal cannabis will come into operation. [42648/17]


333. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Health the number of times the expert group charged with developing the operational, clinical and practice guidelines for the compassionate access programme for medicinal cannabis has met; the dates on which it has met; and the names of those on this expert group. [42649/17]


Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 332 and 333 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, in March 2017, on foot of the conclusions from the Health Products Regulatory Authority’s report ‘Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review’, I established an Expert Reference Group to advise on the development of a Cannabis for Medical Use Access Programme.


The Expert Group is chaired by Dr Mairín Ryan, Director of Health Technology Assessment at the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), and comprises representation from the areas of oncology, palliative care, anaesthesiology, general practice, adult neurology, paediatric neurology, multiple sclerosis, psychiatry, pharmacy, patients, and ethics as well as representatives from HIQA, the HPRA, the National Medicines Information Centre and the Department of Health. To date this group has met seven times.


  The Expert Group is tasked with the development of clinical guidance for healthcare professionals treating patients through the Access Programme. A critical requirement for the successful establishment of the Access Programme is meaningful engagement with representative bodies, clinicians, patients, and pharmacists so that these groups are integral to the drafting of operational clinical guidance. This has involved continuous ongoing dialogue between the Experts and third parties throughout this initiative. The Group conducted a targeted consultation on the draft guidance, which will be finalised shortly. The Expert Group are also considering other operational aspects for the implementation of the Access Programme.


Officials in my Department are working on secondary legislation to underpin the programme and on the logistics of sourcing suitable cannabis-based product supplies for the Irish market place. This work will take a number of months to complete.


As I have previously advised, pending implementation of the Cannabis Access Programme, and for medical conditions that are not included in the Access Programme, under existing legislation it is open to me as Minister to consider granting a licence to an Irish registered medical practitioner, under the Misuse of Drugs Acts, for access to medical cannabis for named patients. The Chief Medical Officer has advised that the granting of such a licence 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. The decision to prescribe cannabis for medical use rests with the clinician, in consultation with their patient. As Minister for Health I have no role in this clinical decision-making process.


Where a consultant requires information or clarification in relation to the licence application process, he or she should contact my Department directly.


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