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Eligibility for medical cannabis “will be the same as other prescriptions” – Minister

The Minister for Health Simon Harris does not expect eligibility or cost to be a factor for patients requiring medical cannabis.

The Minster was speaking at the launch of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme, the legislation for which was signed today (Wednesday 25 June).

The programme will be established on a pilot basis for five years. “The cost will be the same as many other prescriptions, your eligibility will be assessed in the same way, whether that be a medical card or being on the long-term illness scheme,” according to the Minister.

“So, it would be the same eligibility as any other trip to the pharmacy”.

Speaking to journalists outside of the Department of Health , Minister Harris explained that applications are now open to suppliers. He mentioned that suppliers have had “quite a lot of interest in supplying to Ireland” and that he expects applications to be submitted imminently. The Minister stated that an exact cost would be subject to engagement with a supplier.

“Our priority is to get this programme up and running and make sure that products that are already available can be made available here in Ireland to our patients and that’s really the focus of our Department,” explained Minister Harris. “This is a 5-year pilot and we’re going to trial it and know at the end of the five years from engagement if it is successful”.

The Minister explained that this scheme will be subject to a medical professional’s recommendation after trialling traditional medical products. He said that it will be another option for patients with multiple sclerosis not responding to traditional medication, patients with epilepsy who still have severe symptoms on medication and patients undergoing chemotherapy who experience severe nausea and vomiting.

Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne, also welcomed the legislation.

“It is important to mention that today will be for showing compassion to those who conventional medication hasn’t worked and people suffering from pain,” said Minister Harris.

Minister Harris thanked Dr Máirín Ryan, Deputy Chief Executive of HIQA, for the Authority’s role in drafting the detailed Clinical Guidelines for the Access Programme.

“This, from my perspective is doctor led and doctor designed,” stated the Minister. “This will set in place the rules for prescribing and the rules for suppliers”.

“This is about showing compassion to patients where traditional medication has failed”.

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