Four years after launch, Ireland has its first patient through the state-approved Medical Cannabis Access Program (MCAP). This milestone is significant in the ongoing campaign for medical cannabis. Politician Gino Kenny is the driving force behind the People Before Profit-Solidarity. Kenny aims to improve access to medical cannabis for tens of thousands of patients across the country.
A Significant Milestone
European cannabis news source, BusinessCann spoke with Ryan Gorman of Dublin. Gorman will now be the first patient to receive CannEpil, a high-CBD, low-THC formula manufactured by MGC Pharmaceuticals. CannEpil became available in Ireland through MCAP in 2019, before being approved for the Primary Care Reimbursement Service. As of June 2021, it is free of charge.
There are only three medical conditions that MCAP will currently allow the use of medical cannabis treatment, including nausea induced by chemotherapy, spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and severe forms of epilepsy. Ryan is one of around 37,000 people in Ireland with epilepsy, and one of approximately 800 with intractable epilepsy, meaning the response to current drug treatments is ineffective.
Inevitably, some individuals are still against the use of cannabis, so the program expects some backlash. Numerous Irish medical professionals have spoken out against medical cannabis, THC in particular, for treating epilepsy.
Professor Bryan Lynch, a Consultant Pediatric Neurologist in Temple Street Children’s Hospital, told the Oireachtas health committee that there was no evidence base for benefits to epileptic patients from cannabis products that contain THC.
Arguably though, there have been beneficial findings. A recent review from Imperial College London conducted by Professor David Nutt and Ph.D. candidate Rayyan Zafar found combined CBD and THC-based products to be highly effective in treating patients diagnosed with severe childhood-onset epilepsy.
“It’s not about being first or being last or in the middle. What is important is that if it becomes accessible, and the barriers are broken down, it’s almost like the Berlin Wall, one goes through then the rest will follow.”
People Before Profit-Solidarity politician Gino Kenny
The System is Still Lacking
Despite the positive step forward for MCAP, even its strongest advocates remain slightly skeptical of its framework and its potential as an effective way forward for medical cannabis access.
According to Gino Kenny, “The program is far too restrictive and needs to include other conditions so it can fulfil its potential. I know there continues to be frustration with the torturously slow progress of the program, but hopefully, with this news, this can be a precedent for further progress.”
Positive Change for the Future
In May this year, a poll conducted by Red C, the most frequently published and respected political pollster in Ireland, found that not only were 93 percent of respondents in favour of medical cannabis in Ireland. However, 39 percent were in favour of recreational legalization.
A five-year review of MCAP will take place in the near future. Yet, according to drug policy specialist Natalie O’Regan, a key flaw is that there is no patients supervision or monitoring. With no raw data to inform the next steps, the future is unclear. In order to see real change, she believes products other than CannEpil will need to become available via MCAP, which will require more patients.
O’Regan said it best, “Regardless of what may be wrong with the programme, somebody is going to have a better quality life over the decision.”