Ahead of the snap Spanish election this weekend, Chief Executive Officer of Linneo Health Don Bellamy lays out the frustrating situation for thousands of patients who are forced to turn to the black market despite a medical cannabis framework being ‘within reach’.
Confirmation from the Spanish government earlier this month that proposals for the rollout of a medicinal cannabis framework will not happen before the upcoming elections is a huge blow for patients.
The growing need for medicinal cannabis is a reality in Spain that we cannot avoid, and this government’s initial commitment offered thousands of people hope. From general anxiety to chronic pain or the easing of cancer symptoms, medicinal cannabis would be available, safely and securely, to patients in Spain with a wide range of conditions. This would be a win for patients.
However, with every passing day, patients in Spain remain exposed. The frustrations and anger of many that parliamentary process has brought plans to a standstill, reflect the continued unease that patients must continue to self medicate, forced to rely on cannabis products from the illegal and uncontrolled black market. This is all the more frustrating because a safe and viable alternative solution is within reach.
Spain remains one of the last European countries to legislate for the medicinal use of cannabis, lagging behind its neighbours for too long. Countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Italy have established frameworks so that patients in need can access an appropriate cannabis-based therapy, from inhaled and medically cultivated dried flowers or through the consumption of specifically formulated cannabis extracts. It is lagging behind many of its European neighbours.
Germany’s legislation is a reference for the world, with physician monitoring of patients and follow-up through a qualified pharmacist. In the UK, tens of thousands of patients are now receiving medicinal cannabis treatment, regulated with guarantees of safety and quality.
Across the border from us, Portugal has a list of seven indications previously evaluated by a Scientific Committee with specific marketing authorisations and our other neighbour, France, is finalising a pilot program with signs showing that several indications in which medicinal cannabis will be applied for use have been selected. In every country with well thought out regulation we hear the same reaction: The patient experience is the same as for any medicinal product, which means that patient safety is paramount.
Patients in Spain deserve better, so when parliament returns after the elections, whatever parties form the next government, I hope they will be respectful to the needs of patients and deliver on the existing commitment. Spain’s parliamentarians need look no further than their European neighbours for evidence that regulation and laws can improve access to cannabis medicines and, ultimately, improve patient care.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver the right result for patients in Spain, who have been waiting for so long, while, in their own words, their pain waits for no one.
Don Bellamy is Chief Executive Officer of Linneo Health, a global leader in the research, cultivation and supply of cannabis, with European operations and cultivation facilities in Murcia, Southern Spain.