A move to ease financial pressures on people faced with significant bills for using a Dutch medical cannabis product has been warmly welcomed by a patients’ advocate.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has asked his officials to find a way to ensure patients will no longer need to pay upfront for the medication Bedrocan.
Vera Twomey, whose daughter Ava has been prescribed Bedrocan, said she and her husband had to pay €9,500 every three months which was reimbursed within five weeks. It was a financial strain to ensure they had €9,500 every three months.
“This is the most hopeful news I’ve heard this year,” said the mother of four from Aghabullogue, Co Cork.
For a considerable time, she had campaigned for access to the cannabis-based medication for Ava (11), who suffers from Dravet syndrome.
The condition resulted in Ava’s hospitalisation numerous times with seizures, as the illness caused “intractable drug-resistant epilepsy”.
Ava now receives ongoing medical prescriptions for Bedrocan which have freed her from the trauma of constant seizures. Bedrocan is prescribed for a number of Irish patients.
Bedrocan will not, however, be listed in the new Medical Cannabis Access Programme. A Department of Health spokeswoman said “Bedrocan products are manufactured in the Netherlands and the commercial export of these oil-based products to pharmacies or wholesalers is prohibited by the Dutch authorities.
“The Dutch authorities will permit the collection of individual prescriptions from the manufacturing pharmacy for Irish patients.
“Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions since April 2020, the Department of Health has been collecting the patients’ prescriptions from the Netherlands and delivering the products to their homes.
“In December 2020, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed that this initiative would be permanent as he did not want patients and their families to have to travel to collect the products.
“As a result of the Dutch commercial export restrictions, the manufacturers of the Bedrocan products are unable to apply to the Health Products Regulatory Authority to have these cannabis-based products assessed for inclusion in the Medical Cannabis Access Programme.
“On commencement of the Access Programme, patients can continue to access the Bedrocan products via the ministerial licence route. The minister has asked officials to find a mechanism that would ensure the State covers the cost up front for eligible patients.”