Ireland Makes Changes To Medical Cannabis Reimbursement

In an effort to better assist patients and families, Ireland’s medical cannabis refund system is to be replaced by a direct payment arrangement.

Eligible patients in Ireland currently source their prescriptions from a pharmacy in the Netherlands, Transvaal Apotheek. This arrangement was challenging due to patients or their families needing to travel to the Netherlands to pick up their medicines.

In April last year, the Department of Health kicked off an initiative whereby the prescribed products would be picked up for delivery directly to patients’ homes. In December last year, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed this arrangement would continue post-pandemic.

The removal of that hardship was welcomed, as was Ireland’s government picking up the tab for medications – but other challenges remained.

To this point, eligible patients or their families were required to pay the Netherlands pharmacy directly for medical cannabis prescriptions and then apply to Ireland’s Health Services (HSE) for a refund of the cost. For families doing it tough, finding the money for the up-front payment created significant financial hardship.

Under the new arrangement, the HSE will pay the dispensing pharmacy in the Netherlands directly.

“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,” said Minister Donnelly.

That only 17 patients are using the scheme perhaps points to another challenge – eligibility for it.

In Ireland, only 3 conditions are eligible for participation in the scheme:

  • standard intervention/therapy resistant spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis
  • intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy where use of anti-emetic regimes has not been successful
  • severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy

In addition to the limited range of conditions, there is a significant amount of red tape that must be addressed in order to participate in the scheme. But still, for those who are able to benefit from the scheme, no doubt they are very grateful for the support.

Further information on Ireland’s Medical Cannabis Access Programme can be found here.

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