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A cork woman with chronic pain must stay in Spain to get medical cannabis

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A Cork woman whose medical advisor prescribed cannabis for chronic pain has to live in Spain to access it because she cannot get reimbursement from her medical card.

Alicia Maher, 37, from Mayfield in Cork, wants to return from Spain, where she has lived since 2019, having traveled there to legally and safely obtain cannabis to treat the chronic pain she suffered for several years after surgery.

Before taking cannabis for pain, she was taking 30 tablets a day. Now, she doesn’t have anything.

“I don’t think anyone should travel abroad to get a drug that works for them,” she said. Irish Examiner. “It should be simple.”

Although she later succeeded in obtaining prescription cannabis under a ministerial license by an Ireland-based pain consultant, Alicia says a monthly dose would cost her €1,000 if she returned to Ireland because it was not covered by her medical card. It only costs a quarter of that in Spain.

If chronic pain was one of the health conditions covered by the Medical Cannabis Access Program (MCAP), she would have been able to cover the cost.

A two-day series on medicinal cannabis begins in Irish Examiner In print and online on Monday, August 1. Patients including Alicia Maher tell their stories, as Ann Murphy talks to experts including doctors, politicians and Jarday. You can read the series through click here From 2 am on Monday.

However, the conditions included in this program are currently limited to only three – spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and severe treatment-resistant epilepsy.

Alicia’s parents remain in Cork, while other family members she cannot see regularly include her brothers, nephews, and nieces. She said:

It is so appalling that families are separated because of this.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “For medical indications not included in the MCAP, clinicians may continue to use the ministerial licensing pathway to prescribe medicinal cannabis to their patients.

“In line with the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, the granting of a license for medical cannabis should be based on an appropriate application to the Ministry of Health, endorsed by a consultant responsible for patient management and who is willing to monitor the effects of treatment over time.”

She said the HSE is responsible for decisions about both drug pricing and reimbursement under community drug schemes.

“In making the relevant reimbursement decision, HSE is required by law to consider a number of criteria including effectiveness, public health needs, cost-effectiveness, and potential or actual budget impact.”

Anne Murphy’s two-day series of articles on the issue of medical cannabis begins in print and online on Monday, August 1, 2022.


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