Spain takes a step closer to regulating the use of medicinal cannabis
The subcommittee of the Congress of Deputies in the Spanish Government have approved the final report to regulate the therapeutic use of medicinal cannabis by cancer patients, those with multiple sclerosis, patients with cancer pain and chronic non-cancer pain, and legislate for it to be dispensed in hospital pharmacies and health centres.
With this green light, the use of cannabis in the health field is one step closer, since the Ministry of Health promised to accept the parliamentary conclusions. Predictably, the Health Commission and the Plenary Session of Congress will debate the report next week, and then the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) will have six months to definitively regulate its use.
Dozens of experts have participated in the subcommittee, which sought to establish the basis for the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Finally, after a long negotiation, the Government has agreed to some of the points claimed by the opposition, particularly, Podemos, the main one being, that cancer patients can receive this treatment.
This means that, according to the text, cannabis can be used for patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, some forms of epilepsy, nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy, endometriosis, cancer pain and chronic non-cancer pain (including neuropathic pain), and may also be used for other therapeutic situations if supported by medical studies.
The document emphasizes that magisterial formulas with standardized cannabis extracts or preparations can only be prescribed by doctors and recommends that they be dispensed in "the health system pharmacy network", that is, those of hospitals and health centres, but the door is open for other chemists in the future.
Currently, the use of cannabis is not regulated and users rely on the black market. “Patients have to go to a dealer to get their cannabis. We have left these patients in the hands of drug dealers or a friend who cultivates it when a health professional should be prescribing it,” says Manuel Guzmán, professor of Biomedicine at the University of Madrid and vice president of the Spanish Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis.
“Doctors prescribe much stronger therapies, like opiates. It is as if we were talking about legalizing or banning beer while whiskey, vodka or rum are allowed”, he said. “Cannabis is not a miracle medicine that slows down the progression of the disease, it is a complementary therapeutic tool that improves the quality of life of patients".
Estimates suggest that around 200,000 patients in Spain will be able to benefit from the use of cannabis, which was already been regulated in other EU countries such as Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Austria, Portugal, Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as in the United Kingdom.