Two new medical cannabis products were approved for sale in Ireland this week on prescription.
Aurora Cannabis Enterprises (Canada) and MGC Pharmaceuticals (Australia) received approval for their pharmaceutical grade CBD oil drops.
Simon Harris, Ireland’s Health Minister, signed the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) into law in June of this year.
The two companies are the first to receive approval for their products since the legislation was signed.
The programme will operate on a pilot basis for the next five years.
Medical cannabis is said to help with a variety of conditions, including certain forms of epilepsy, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis (MS).
In a statement released earlier this year, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland (MS Ireland) said Sativex, a drug containing the cannabinoid THC, had been proven to help with sleep quality, mobility and the frequency of spasms in some people with MS.
In a trial of Sativex involving over 500 people, 48 percent of participants had 20 percent or more improvement in their spasticity.
MS Ireland said they would continue to advocate for “people with MS in Ireland to be able to access the medicines they need,” but said they do not approve of non-pharmaceutical or unlicensed cannabis-based products.
“There are serious concerns about the safety and risks associated with unregulated, unstandardised non-pharmaceutical products containing cannabis extracts, in particular those that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” which is the main psycho-active element in cannabis.
MS Ireland said they believe “thorough scientific research is the only way to demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of any potential therapy or treatment for MS,” which is why the only cannabis product they currently support is the thoroughly tested Sativex.
The society said they “cautiously welcomed” the news of plans for an access plan, but were concerned about the safety of non-pharmaceutical products. The society “nonetheless recognise that many people with MS will welcome the opportunity to be able to legally access such products.”
MS Ireland said they want the Department of Health to make sure all available drugs have undergone quality control and safety testing, and would welcome further scientific research into the safe and effective use of cannabis in medicine.
In recent years, clinical trials of a drug called Epidiolex have shown “promising results”, according to Epilepsy Ireland, in reducing seizures in children with rare and severe epilepsies including Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Epilepsy Ireland said the drug is being reviewed in Europe and is expected to be approved in 2019 or early 2020