On 13 December, the French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety (ANSM) published the first findings of its Temporary Specialist Scientific Committee (CSST) on medical cannabis since it was established on 10 September this year.
The Committee found that it is “pertinent to authorise the use of medical cannabis” for patients with certain specified conditions. French media such as Le Point and Europe 1 have already been speculating that medical cannabis could soon be made legal.
The announcement came after a three month inquiry, kickstarted by the French Health Minister Agnès Buzyn stating that medical cannabis “could happen” in France. The Committee, comprised of medical professionals and a representative from a patients’ association, also recommended continuing assessment of any patients being treated, and that legislation be put in place to make the drug available.
The Committee recommended that medical cannabis use be legalised in the following clinical situations:
- Chronic pain;
- Some forms of severe and drug-resistant epilepsy;
- As part of supportive care in oncology;
- In palliative situations;
- For multiple sclerosis spasticity.
Despite Le Parisien’s claim that the decision was bringing France one step closer to “prescription joints”, the Committee specifically noted that it does not recommend legalising smoking cannabis, because of the associated health risks.
While the Committee is yet to provide guidance on other ways of administration, they called for regular evaluation of the effects of cannabis use once it is authorised, as well as further research on the drug generally.
No Medicine Before 2020
While some media reported the announcement as indicative that medical cannabis would be available soon in France, we asked Aurélien Bernard, founder of French cannabis-focused publication Newsweed, how fast can we truly expect cannabis-based medicine available to patients:
“It is very unlikely we will find cannabis in pharmacies before 2020. ANSM announced 3 to 6 months of work to determine which forms will be able to be prescribed, the prescription and reimbursement system, and likely production and distribution.”
Bernard also noted that it was unlikely that the medicines available to French patients would be produced within the country: “You can’t create a medical facility at the click of a button, let alone the infrastructure necessary for production and testing. This leaves room for foreign companies, so that patients can access their treatment as soon as possible. An interesting year is ahead of us.”
Just over a week before the recommendation, several French political representatives held a roundtable discussion at the National Assembly on the rights of patients to access cannabis-based medicines. In the path to patient access, policymakers are next in line to take over the process, once the Committee produces its final conclusions, reportedly “not before the end of 2019”.
In the next twelve months, the French medical and political community will have many questions to answer. Considerations like permitted medicines or whether patients would be permitted to cultivate at home have not yet been discussed. There is space for research development, discussions on public health and patient access, as well as much to learn from expertise abroad.
Join us in Paris on 8th February 2019 to further this exchange of ideas. European and French policymakers, scientific and economic partners of the cannabis sector, and the best and brightest in the industry will gather at the Maison de la Chimie, a stone’s throw from the National Assembly, to shape the future of European medical cannabis.
Purchase tickets for Cannabis Europa Paris here. 14 DECEMBER 2018