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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Questions on promised legislation [Medicinal cannabis].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Questions on promised legislation [Medicinal cannabis]. (26 Jun 2019)

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Deputy David Cullinane: Today the Minister for Health will hold briefings on the roll-out of the compassionate access programme for those who need cannabis-based oil for medical and clinical purposes. I commend Deputy Gino Kenny and many others who campaigned for this, as well as the Minister for Health who took the issue on board and progressed it…  

The Taoiseach: The Deputy will appreciate the limitations I am under when it comes to responding to questions about individual cases. I imagine the Deputy is aware that it would be illegal for the Minister for Health to give a direction to the HSE in a particular individual case. There is a reimbursement system in place. I have been advised that the following steps have to be completed when it comes to reimbursement. The patient’s consultant must be satisfied that all therapeutic options have been exhausted and prepared to accept responsibility for the monitoring of the patient’s response, side effects, etc. A prescriber applies to the Minister for a ministerial licence. If it is granted, the consultant completes an individual reimbursement form, setting out the therapeutic benefit for the patient. It must be completed in sufficient detail for the therapeutic benefit to be demonstrated. Thereafter, an individual reimbursement form is considered by the Medicines Management Programme, MMP. Following a review of the documentation, the MMP makes a recommendation to the HSE in favour of or against reimbursement support for the patient and of the patient's eligibility and informs the Primary Care Reimbursement Service, PCRS, of that recommendation. That is the process by which somebody can apply for reimbursement. I cannot say why reimbursement may be refused in an individual case. I hope this information is of some help to the Deputy…. 

Deputy Gino Kenny: The medical cannabis access programme was announced by the Minister for Health today. Obviously, it has been a protracted process, but it is welcome. It is significant for the health system as doctors can now prescribe cannabis-based products. I commend the families who have been campaigning for this in the past three years, in particular, Vera Twomey and Paul Barry. The country owes that family a debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they have made. While the programme is welcome, it does not go far enough, in particular with reference to the stipulation surrounding the omission of chronic pain. Many will ask why a reference to chronic pain has been omitted from the programme. Will it be included in the access programme in the future? 

The Taoiseach: I am glad that at long last progress is being made on this matter. It is a pilot programme that will run for five years. I recognise the Deputy’s work in helping to bring us to this point, as well as the families mentioned by him. The medical cannabis access programme provides for medical cannabis to be prescribed in three circumstances where a patient has failed to respond to standard treatments. They include spasticity associated with MS, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and severe refractory treatment resistant epilepsy. Any decision to extend its use to other illnesses or symptoms would have to be made on clinical grounds, rather than it being a political decision.

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