The Directorate General of Health (DGS) did not wait for the results of the experimentation with therapeutic cannabis – which was to be submitted to Parliament today – to make its decision. She announced to industrialists and doctors last Friday, and to patient associations this morning, the extension of the experimentation with medical cannabis for a minimum of one year.
The imposed decision is justified by the DGS by:
- the weak relay of experimentation in liberal medicine (only 200 liberal doctors took part in it)
- the lack of economic data on the gains on Tramadol – even though patients treated with cannabis were failing on Tramadol and no longer taking it, we are told
- the need to comply with European discussions, without however wanting to wait for the end of these discussions
A medical source familiar with the matter also reports resistance from the Ministry of the Interior to the legalization of cannabis for medical use.
Patient associations condemn the decision
The DGS chose to announce the decision initially to manufacturers, and not to patients, a timing that the latter regret. The DGS recognized here a “clumsiness”.
In a press release, the patient associations “deeply regret not having been consulted, or even informed of this decision, before it was leaked to the press by a press release from representatives of the agro-industrial sector. This method is symptomatic of the lack of consideration enjoyed by patients in this decision.
They also call into question the reasons mentioned by manufacturers for postponing the legalization of medical cannabis in France for one year.
“The reasons given for extending the experiment, namely the lack of preparation of the French agro-industrial sector and the risk of foreign players taking positions on the market, can in no way dictate our health policy. Prioritizing economic interests over improving the health and quality of life of tens of thousands of patients suffering from chronic and severely disabling symptoms constitutes a dangerous break with public health ethics and even the doctrine of “whatever the cost” adopted at the time of the Covid-19 crisis. »
The associations are calling for the availability from March 2023 and for the greatest number of “cannabis-based medicines from regulated production chains and conditioned on a first hospital prescription and subject to reimbursement”.
Mado Gilanton, President APAISER S&C and patient representative on the ANSM’s temporary therapeutic cannabis scientific committee, is concerned that a postponement will not bring more results in a year.
“If there is an extension, we are asking for a firm commitment that this year of “deferral” be used to refine the indications and to make medical cannabis products available on the market. Otherwise, legalization would be postponed indefinitely. »
Two other points also remain to be clarified – the pharmaceutical status of these products and whether or not they will be reimbursed by health insurance – work started in 2018.
While the report on the experimentation with therapeutic cannabis was to be submitted to Parliament today, the DGS confirmed that it was ready, but that it will finally be submitted to the deputies in mid-October, along with the amendment of extension, and only a few days before the discussions on the said amendment. This tight timing will mechanically leave the deputies little time to prepare the subject even though the parliamentary work around the PLFSS promises to be particularly substantial.
No budgetary indication has yet been communicated regarding the postponement of the experiment. Since the 3,000 patients in the experiment have not been reached, the current suppliers of medical cannabis could be offered to continue to supply their products free of charge. A “lightening” of the device was also mentioned, without further details.