The proposed regulation on medicinal cannabis could make treatment costs unaffordable, patients who already use a cannabis oil product fear.
According to the proposed amendment to the Drug Dependence Act, general practitioners would be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis preparations and synthetic cannabinoid products licensed under the Medicines Act or manufactured under Good Manufacturing Practice.
But this has raised alarm among people who already use non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) oil.
A woman who has suffered from fibromyalgia for 25 years and whose life changed “overnight” when she started using the hemp extract, said she could not understand why the authorities were making the situation more difficult for suffering patients.
Up until some months ago, Chanel* could purchase CBD oil from local health food stores, but she now obtains the product online for some €70.
According to the proposed amendments, she will now only be allowed to use GMP-certified products, which she fears might be significantly more expensive and could even reach €1,500 for the same product.
Family doctor Andrew Agius, who has a special interest in pain management, said medicines manufactured under GMP conditions may be unaffordable for some patients.
Such product prices would need to be competitive, because patients would otherwise still opt to order their CBD products online with the risk of purchasing harmful products.
After 25 years I started tasting life and it feels like they will now be taking my life away from me
Dr Agius added that competitive products which were not manufactured under GMP conditions should also be considered as long as they came with patient-focused certification.
Earlier this year, Dr Agius used to recommend CBD oil to some patients suffering from chronic pain, anxiety and minor metabolic abnormalities such as borderline diabetes.
But in May he had to tell his patients to go back to their prescribed pills as he was informed that CBD oil – which he said was legal elsewhere in the EU – was illegal in Malta.
Last month, Health Minister Chris Fearne told the media that once the amendment was approved, the products would only be available for purchase from a pharmacy using a control card.
Dr Agius said such cards were meant to control drugs that could be abused, but CBD oil, as declared by the World Health Organisation, had no potential for abuse. It did not cause people who consumed it to experience a euphoric effect, he said.
Since it is easily available without a prescription from health shops throughout Europe and also online, patients may still opt to buy the oil online if the procedure to obtain a GMP-certified medicine is too bureaucratic.
Chanel, who has been consuming CBD oil since February is determined she will not go through the “hassle”.
“I will continue to consume the oil I get online, which is the only one I afford. I will continue using it even if I have to leave the country.
“After 25 years I started tasting life and it feels like they will now be taking my life away from me,” she said.
Chanel, who looks visibly better than when she first spoke to this newspaper in August, has been diagnosed with advanced fibromyalgia and risked losing her job before resorting to the oil after trying everything else under the sun.
Dr Agius confirmed that the expense was weighing down on several patients’ minds. Some did not even afford the price of the product bought online and were expecting the treatment for free.
*name has been changed
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