Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD is pleased to announce that the refund system for eligible patients who obtain their prescribed cannabis-based products from the Netherlands will be replaced by a direct payment system.
The HSE will pay the dispensing pharmacy in the Netherlands directly.
To date, eligible patients or their families were required to pay the pharmacy directly and apply to the HSE for a refund of the cost of the prescribed products. This placed a financial burden on those patients and families. The Minister asked his officials to find a solution that ensured patients were not left out of pocket for any period of time.
The Minister said: "I am delighted that the HSE and Transvaal Apotheek in the Netherlands are implementing a new process which will give peace of mind to the seventeen patients and their families who until now have been using the refund process."
The HSE will be contacting patients and their families directly.
Eligible patients are those suffering from one these three stated conditions:
•spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis resistant to all standard therapies and interventions whilst under expert medical supervision
•intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, despite the use of standard anti-emetic regimes whilst under expert medical supervision
•severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy that has failed to respond to standard anticonvulsant medications whilst under expert medical supervision
Notes to the Editor
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act it is open to clinicians to apply to the minister for health to prescribe cannabis-based products for their patients.
A detailed application is required from the clinician, describing the indication the patient has, the fact that all therapeutic options have been exhausted and advising that they are prepared to prescribe cannabis-based products and monitor their patient’s use of the products prescribed.
Such applications must also comply with recommendations made by the CMO who advised that the granting of an individual licence under the Misuse of Drugs Act for the use of cannabis for medical purposes by the Minister for Health sets aside the usual regulatory processes which are in place to protect the public and which ensure that only those medications which have been found to be both effective and safe are made available to the public.
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, either by a consultant or by a GP whose application 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.
Currently patients being treated by licenced clinicians are sourcing their prescriptions from a pharmacy in the Netherlands. To date payment for the prescribed products has been made directly by patients or the families and those eligible could apply to the HSE for a refund of that cost.
Owing to Covid 19 travel restrictions in April 2020 the Department of Health commenced a scheme to collect the prescribed products form the Netherlands for delivery directly to patients’ homes. In December Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD confirmed that this process will continue post pandemic for patients and their families.