Spain’s Congress of Deputies has given the green light to pharmacies selling medicinal cannabis for therapeutic purposes.
The agreement was announced on Tuesday, but must still be approved by Spain’s Health Commission. This is likely to happen as early as today, Thursday, 23 June.
The drug will contain standardised cannabis extracts or preparations and will be available from hospital and community pharmacies in the coming months.
The Spanish Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis (OECM) forecasts that up to 300,000 people could benefit from using medicinal cannabis to alleviate symptoms associated with diseases such as chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, cancer, multiple sclerosis, some forms of epilepsy, chronic pain and endometriosis.
Experts also suggested that this list could “when the studies provide consistent indications,” be extended. However, at this moment in time, the scientific evidence that is available for its effectiveness in treating other conditions is still extremely limited.
The document produced by the subcommittee, states that the cannabis formula will be prescribed exclusively by health professionals “in a context free of potential conflicts of interest.”
The committee also requested that specialised training should be provided for the practitioners who will be given the task of prescribing the drug.
It also suggested that a centralised registry of patients who are undergoing treatment should be implemented, however, this concept has been met with some resistance.
The subcommittee claims that “these records can be the basis for evaluating the results obtained with treatment in different patients profiles, and thus progressively improve knowledge about the drug and ultimately benefit patients.”
The document also states that it is “absolutely necessary” to stop the use of cannabis extracts or preparations from being “confused with an invocation of the general use of cannabis by the population.”
In order to prevent this from happening, the Spanish Medicines Agency will produce a yearly report on the options available, patients, services and volumes of products dispensed.
Despite the fact that standardised cannabis extracts will be guaranteed, the agreement leaves the door open for the cannabis flower to be used as well. This will help to develop “experimental medicinal projects.”
Many patients use the flower as a “rescue medicine” during episodes of crisis.
Carlos Goicoechea, vice president of the Spanish Pain Society and professor of Pharmacology at the Rey Juan Carlos University explains that “Many times, the high THC composition of this is too high for a patient. From now on, it will be possible to regulate the amount of THC and make a more personalised adjustment”.
Only two drugs that are based on the cannabis plant have, up until now, been marketed in Spain. They are Sativex, which is made up of two extracts of cannabis Sativa (THC and CBD) and is used to treat muscle spasticity and pain in multiple sclerosis patients and Epidiolex (CBD extracted from plants, in oil form) used for epilepsy associated with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut Syndromes.
This new agreement will mean that patients who are unable to take these drugs due to the high dosage, will be able to be prescribed specific doses by the pharmacies.
Jesús Aguilar, the president of the General Council of Official Colleges of Pharmacists (CGCOF), claimed that “dispensing the drug through the network of pharmacies reconciles the most demanding criteria of public health, patient safety, health education and equal access”.
At this present time, CBD products in Spain are not illegal, providing that they contain less than 0.2 per cent of THC, the psychoactive component in weed that makes you feel ‘high’.