Epilepsy Ireland, the National Clinical Programme for Epilepsy and the Irish Epilepsy League - the Irish Chapter of the International League Against Epilepsy - have jointly written to the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly regarding the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP).
In our correspondence to the Minister on April 3rd, we welcomed the funding which has been allocated to establish the scheme over the coming months and the overarching goal of the MCAP to help patients access unlicensed cannabis-based products in a safe, controlled manner.
However, we have also identified current concerns which we have regarding the MCAP, in particular the fact that no purified CBD product has as yet been accepted for use under the Programme. The evidence base in epilepsy to date points to the use of purified CBD products, whereas there is a dearth of evidence on the safety and efficacy of THC-containing products. However, all four of the products accepted by the HPRA to date are high potency THC-containing products. This contradicts the Department of Health's own 'Clinical Guidance on Cannabis for Medical Use', where it is stated that products accepted on the programme for use in the treatment of epilepsy must be purified (>98%) CBD.
As things stand, patients that might benefit from CBD will have no way of accessing this evidence-based treatment under the MCAP. As a result of the above, we fear that the MCAP will be a missed opportunity for people with epilepsy and that it will be significantly underutilised by clinicians. This is especially problematic given the recent NCPE decision not to reimburse Epidyolex unless cost effectiveness can be improved.
The letter is available HERE and at the end of this article.
We look forward to hearing from the Minister on our correspondence and we will share any update we receive on our website & social media channels. In the meantime, you can read more about Medicinal Cannabis & Epilepsy on our new minisite HERE.
As we have highlighted throughout the minisite, please talk to your doctor or epilepsy specialist nurse if you are using or considering using any cannabis-based product.