Pharmacies in Spain will be able to sell medical marijuana by the end of 2022

Spain's Medicines Agency will soon set out the conditions for pharmacies to be able to dispense cannabis with THC - the psychoactive component that makes you feel ‘high’ - when prescribed for therapeutic purposes.

The Spanish government still wants to prevent the use of cannabis extracts or preparations from being "confused with an invocation of the general use of cannabis by the population”. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The move was agreed upon by the Spanish Congress of Deputies on Tuesday, but must still be approved by Spain’s Health Commission, which is likely to be as soon as this Thursday, June 23rd.  

Products extracted from cannabis will be sold in Spanish pharmacies in order to help alleviate symptoms associated with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, some forms of epilepsy, the side effects of chemotherapy, cancer, chronic pain and endometriosis.

The Spanish Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis (OECM) calculates that up to 300,000 people who could use cannabis for therapeutic purposes will benefit. 

The cannabis formulas will be prescribed exclusively by health professionals “in a context free of potential conflicts of interest”, states the official text, and will preferably be prescribed by specialists.

A centralised registry of the patients who will use it will be created to ensure it’s only purchased by those who need it. 

The text also emphasises that it will be necessary to prevent the supply of cannabis for therapeutic uses from leading to “greater availability and consumption” outside of the context of health benefits.

The text goes on to say it is “absolutely necessary” to prevent the use of cannabis extracts or preparations from being “confused with an invocation of the general use of cannabis by the population”.

To stop this from happening, the Spanish Medicines Agency will prepare a yearly report on the options available, patients, services and volumes of products dispensed.

Although standardised cannabis extracts will be guaranteed, the agreement leaves the door open for the use of the cannabis flower too, to develop “experimental medicinal projects”. Many patients use the flower as a “rescue” medicine during episodes of crisis.

“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”, explains Carlos Goicoechea, vice president of the Spanish Pain Society and professor of Pharmacology at the Rey Juan Carlos University.

Up until now, only two drugs based on the cannabis plant have been marketed in Spain: Sativex, made up of two extracts of cannabis sativa (THC and CBD), to treat muscle spasticity and pain in multiple sclerosis patients, and Epidiolex (CBD extracted from plants, in oil, for epilepsy associated with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes).  

The new plan will mean patients who are unable to take these two drugs because of the high dosage will now be able to take specific doses created by the pharmacies.

The president of the General Council of Official Colleges of Pharmacists (CGCOF), Jesús Aguilar, 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”.

Currently, CBD products are not illegal in Spain provided that they contain less than 0.2 percent of THC, the psychoactive component in weed that makes you feel ‘high’.

READ ALSO: What’s the law on cannabis in Spain?

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Thousands protest in Spain’s Andalusia in defence of public health services

Thousands of protestors took to the streets across Andalusia in defence of public health services on Saturday, demanding a stop to the deterioration of public services and slow privatisation of the region's healthcare system.

Thousands protest in Spain's Andalusia in defence of public health services

Thousands of people demonstrated in several cities across Andalusia in defence of public health services on Saturday.

The main demonstration was held in Seville, the southern region’s capital, where police say 4,000 people took part. Organisers of the protest put the figure at 20,000.

Up to 400 protesters took to the streets in Cádiz, and around a thousand in Granada, though police claim there were just 200.

Protestors demanded the regularisation of 12,000 “false contracts” given to doctors in the Andalusian Health Service (SAS) who arrived as reinforcements during the pandemic, as well as face-to-face care within 48 hours of requesting an appointment, 12 minutes of care per patient, and the boosting of rural emergency and preventive community care.

READ ALSO: Why Spain is running out of doctors

A spokesman for the event, retired doctor Sebastián Martín, highlighted the support “as never seen before” and pointed out that there are around 2.5 million private health policies in Andalusia, adding that “it is important that civil society stands up to them.”

Adelante Andalucía representative Maribel Mora stressed that “we have to defend public health care whoever governs,” criticising “the deterioration of health care over many years” and adding that “now much more money is going to private health care.”

Toni Valero, spokesmen for the leftist grouping of parties IULV-CA called on the Andalusian president Juanma Moreno to “take note” of the “success” of the demonstration and that Andalusian society had clearly “had enough.”

The protests come just weeks after thousands took to the streets in Madrid in defence of the capital’s public healthcare services.

READ ALSO: Thousands rally in defence of Madrid public healthcare

In Granada, the PSOE health spokesperson in the Andalusian parliament, María Ángeles Prieto, stated that public healthcare “can no longer cope” and that was why thousands of Andalusians have taken to the streets. Prieto demanded the regional government invest in public health and asked Moreno to stop the steady privatisation process and stop “transferring” money from the public to the private sector “so that some people can do business.”

However, Regional Minister of Health Catalina García has denied that there is a “progressive deterioration” in Andalusian healthcare.

She stressed improvements in the last four years, including a supposed 30,000 more professionals in the health sector. “The Andalusian health system, according to objective data, is better than it was four years ago. That is undeniable,” she claimed in a statement.

According to the García, the lack of medical professionals in a national problem affecting health systems in all regions of Spain.

READ ALSO: What is the average waiting time across Spain to see a doctor?