MEDICAL cannabis users are to have a special courier sent to the Netherlands to fill their prescriptions after travel restrictions left them unable to leave Ireland to collect their supply.
The arrangement announced by the Department of Health came after patients pleaded for help to get their medication.
Under the strict conditions that attach to their licence, they or an authorised family member normally have to travel to a particular pharmacy in The Hague to collect the drugs in person.
While the emergency measure has been welcomed, one mother of a young man licenced to use medical cannabis said it had thrown up another problem as she now had to find funds to pay the pharmacy up front for three months’ supply.
Pamela Fowler’s son Ryan, 20, from Arklow, Co Wicklow, has Gardner Syndrome which is not one of the three conditions accepted by the State for reimbursement of his medication costs.
As a result, his family have to pay €975 a month, plus travel costs, to fill the prescription which his consultant says has unquestionably improved his condition and quality of life.
“I’ve had to set up a Go Fund Me page because we have to find almost €3,000 quickly to avail of this arrangement,” said Pamela, who spoke to Independent.ie last week about the problems the travel restrictions presented.
A date for the pick-up has not been finalised but a letter sent to all licence-holders, of which there are about 30 in the country, stresses that acceptance of the offer is needed immediately and the paperwork and payment must be sorted as quickly as possible.
“The purpose of this exercise is to try and ensure that each patient the benefit of a prescription under a current ministerial licence can obtain a three-month supply of product which will hopefully carry them through to the end of the Covid-19 crisis,” it says.
Pamela said Ryan’s life had been transformed since he received his licence last October but the requirement that medication be collected in the Netherlands caused ongoing difficulties.
“We’ve been asking for weeks that the diplomatic service or even the gardai get involved to bring the medication here because I couldn’t travel to get it,” she said.
She said while the current temporary solution was welcome, a long-term arrangement needed to be made to spare all the families repeated trips to The Hague.
She said she would also continue her campaign to have the cost of Ryan’s treatment reimbursed by the HSE.
“He hasn’t been in hospital since he started using medical cannabis. Before, he used to be in hospital repeatedly for pain management. The cost saving to the State in keeping him out of hospital alone would more than pay for his prescription.”
Health Minister Simon Harris said: "I am very glad we have been able to make arrangements to have an emergency supply of their products collected for them in Holland, where the products are supplied, and to have the products delivered to the patients in Ireland.
“Patients and their clinicians are now being contacted by the Department in order that these arrangements may be put in place."