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In-Depth Coverage Of The Irish And European Markets

Medical Cannabis Access Programme Review Unveils Varied Findings on Efficacy and Safety

Ireland's Health Research Board (HRB) has released a comprehensive report as part of the 5-year review process of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP). The study, based on 47 systematic reviews, aimed to provide insights into the efficacy and safety of medicinal cannabis, revealing both positive findings and notable challenges.


Positive Findings: Support for Prescribed Medicinal Cannabis in Specific Conditions

The HRB's study acknowledges some evidence supporting the use of prescribed medicinal cannabis for conditions currently approved in Ireland. Notably, the report highlights the efficacy of medicinal cannabis in addressing nausea and vomiting in cancer, spasticity in multiple sclerosis, and a significant benefit in neuropathic or nerve pain associated with conditions like multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or spinal cord injury. This positive finding resonates with advocates, validating years of advocacy and encouraging further exploration into cannabis-based interventions for a broader range of conditions.


Challenges and Lack of Quality in Primary Studies

However, the report also underscores significant challenges and a general lack of quality in primary studies and reviews. This limitation makes it challenging to draw well-founded conclusions about the relative benefits or lack thereof of medicinal cannabis. The study's overview of reviews format, gathering evidence from existing systematic reviews rather than original research studies, highlights the complexities involved in synthesizing information from diverse sources.


Inconsistencies Across Health Conditions

The findings reveal a broad spectrum of outcomes across various health conditions. Conflicting evidence arises in the context of cancer, with six systematic reviews presenting varied conclusions on the efficacy of medicinal cannabis, particularly in addressing pain-related outcomes. Mental health and neuropsychological conditions also show mixed evidence, adding uncertainty to the overall assessment.


Adverse Events and Need for More Research

While serious adverse events do not appear common, the report acknowledges the occurrence of side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, sedation, and headache. The evidence for neuropathic pain, however, is promising, with moderate- to high-certainty evidence supporting the benefits of cannabis, mixed cannabinoids, and THC:CBD. Despite these findings, the report points to the ongoing need for more detailed analysis and research in the realm of medical cannabis.


Critiques and Missed Opportunities

The HRB report falls short in engaging with current MCAP patients, missing the opportunity to gather real-world data readily available on their doorstep. The call for more research, a familiar refrain in 2024, is met with scepticism as advocates stress the urgency of expanding access to medical cannabis.


The report's failure to encompass the experiences of existing MCAP patients raises concerns about its ability to capture the true impact and potential of medicinal cannabis. Patients, who stand to benefit from expanded access to this invaluable medicine, should be at the forefront of these discussions.


Federal Scientists' Findings and Global Context

Interestingly, the HRB report emerges in a global context where federal scientists conclude credible evidence for certain medical uses of cannabis, underscoring the urgency for comprehensive reforms. The largest evidence base for cannabis effectiveness, as found in the U.S., adds weight to the argument for a nuanced and patient-centric approach in Ireland's evolving stance on medicinal cannabis.


As Ireland navigates the complexities of its Medical Cannabis Access Programme, the need for high-quality research, patient engagement, and policy alignment becomes increasingly urgent. The report serves as a pivotal moment for advocates, patients, and policymakers to address existing gaps and drive meaningful reforms in the realm of medical cannabis access.

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