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HEALTH

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.

SPAIN-HEALTH-MARIJUANA
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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HEALTH

Spain announces two child deaths from mysterious hepatitis outbreak

A six-year-old boy from Murcia and a 15-month-old baby in Andalusia have died of hepatitis amid 46 reported cases among children in Spain.

Spain announces two child deaths from mysterious hepatitis outbreak

The Spanish Ministry of Health has reported the first deaths due to a mysterious outbreak of acute hepatitis in children. On Thursday 4th August it was announced that both children, a 6 year boy from Murcia and a 15 month old baby in Andalusia, died after having liver transplants. 

According to the Ministry of Health, among the 46 cases detected in Spain, three transplants have had to be performed so far.The third procedure was made a 3 year old girl in Aragon, who has responded well to the surgery.

The Ministry reassured the public that of the 46 cases picked up so far, the clinical outcome has been positive in 43 of them. The strange cases, the origins of which are unknown, have been detected in children ranging from the ages of 0 up to 16, with over half (60 percent) of the cases being in girls, according to recent data from the Ministry of Health.

World trend

Cases of hepatitis among children are not isolated to Spain, however. As of late June, the World Health Organization (WHO) had identified 894 suspected cases of acute childhood hepatitis across the globe – of which 30 percent resulted in hospital treatment.

As of 30 June, 473 cases of acute hepatitis have been reported in Europe across 21 countries. The European countries with the most cases so far are: Belgium (14), Italy (35), Portugal (19), Spain (40), and the United Kingdom (268).

The majority – 77 percent – of the severest infections were among children between the ages of zero and five.

Regional breakdown 

Within Spain, Madrid has had the most cases so far, with 15. Then comes Catalonia (9); Galicia (5); Balearic Islands (4); Castilla-La Mancha and Murcia (both with 3 cases); Castilla y León and Andalusia (2, not counting the child who died) and Aragon and the Canary Islands have both had 1 case each.

The first reported cases began in early January, and like the broader European trend, the average age of the cases in Spain is very young – 5.3 years on average, with median age of 4 years old – and the majority (64.4 percent) of cases have been among young girls. 

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can prevent it from functioning properly. It can be both acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term).

As of early August, neither the WHO, European medical agencies, nor the Spanish Ministry of Health have been able to conclusively say what is behind the spike in cases among children. 

What are the symptoms?

Severe acute hepatitis can cause jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin, stomach pains, and vomiting. 

Dark urine, light-coloured stools, or itchy skin may also appear as symptoms.

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