By Bill Griffin
Patients will benefit from cannabis at a consistent rate across Europe. Sadly, medical cannabis is far from harmonised at an EU level, resulting in very different patient experiences depending on which country you live in.
As Cannabis Europa approaches, our correspondent, Bill Griffin, details five patient stories from across the continent, showing the lack of consistency in both prescriptions and product.
Richard is an expat living in Germany. He was seeking medical cannabis to ease the discomfort he suffered after a bout of Lyme disease and an operation to remove 25cm of his colon. He found a doctor who prescribed him cannabis on his first visit. Once he had his prescription, Richard struggled to find a pharmacy that supplied medical cannabis at a price he could afford, as it wasn’t covered by his health insurance. After much shopping around he found a solution. He was quoted as much as €820 (for oil) but finally was able to find Bedrocan ground flowers for €164.64 per 5 grams, which he vapes.
Cost per gram: €32.93
Marie lives in the French-speaking region of Belgium. She suffers from anxiety and insomnia. Belgian GPs are able to prescribe medical cannabis to patients, but cannabis flowers and oils are not available in Belgian pharmacies. Some patients have been able to source their medicines from Dutch pharmacies, but they are not legally obliged to honour prescriptions to non-Dutch residents. After extensive calls to different pharmacies in Holland, Marie found Transvaal pharmacy in Den Haag, which would provide the 5 grams of Bediol (from Bedrocan) her doctor prescribed. She sent her prescription before making the trip to the pharmacy, which is a two-hour drive each way. Marie paid €48.50 for five grams of Bedrocan flowers. This was not covered by her health insurance.
Cost per gram: €9.70 + travel expenses
Carly suffered a stroke in her 20s and was diagnosed with significant nerve damage, post-stroke neuropathy and fibromyalgia. She spent the following six years taking pharmaceuticals such as morphine and fentanyl, which had devastating side effects whilst doing little to control her pain. When the UK legalised medical cannabis in November 2018, she became the first adult in the UK to be prescribed cannabis (privately).
Carly’s NHS doctor then rewrote her private script as an NHS prescription. Unfortunately, this prescription was unanimously rejected by the Brighton Medical Governance Group. This forced Carly had to see a private doctor at a cost of £1400 per month – a sum she is unable to afford. Although she is a legal patient, Carly has no choice but to return to the black market to access her medicine. Carly is campaigning for UK patients to be able to cultivate their own cannabis without fear of prosecution from the law.
Cost per gram: €31.75 (£28) – including import fees
Jean-Paul is confined to a hospital bed in northeastern France. He has late stage cancer. His doctor simply wrote him a prescription of “Bedrocan” to combat nausea and pain. Similarly to Belgium, cannabis flowers are not available in French pharmacies. His son drove the three-hour trip to Transvaal pharmacy in Den Haag. They provided him with cannabis flowers and oils, which the pharmacy legally prepares. Jean-Paul intends to vape the flowers and take the oil orally. Pricing information was not available.
Cost per gram: unknown
Trevor was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 10 years ago. He spent 3 years trying different medications with undesirable side effects that did not relieve his pain. Medical cannabis was introduced in Malta in 2018. Trevor was the first patient to apply for a prescription. As medical cannabis is not covered by the Maltese healthcare system, he went to a private pain clinic where he was assessed by a doctor who made an application for cannabis on his behalf. After Trevor was approved by the Superintendent of Public Health and given a control card for narcotic and psychotropic drugs, he returned to a doctor at the Pain Clinic for a prescription for one gram of Bedrocan flowers per day.
Trevor attended a patient workshop where the doctor explained the endocannabinoid system along with information on how cannabis works. His consultation, application, workshop and first prescription cost €70. 15 grams cost €240 from a local pharmacy. Trevor says he feels that he has obtained relief from pain without the need for the pills he was previously using. He is managing to work and function normally.
Cost per gram: €16 + €70 initial costs (application, prescription etc)
On June 24th and 25th, Cannabis Europa London will discuss the pressing need for increased patient access, education and availability of products for patients across the continent. Join the conversation and book your tickets now.