Access to medicinal cannabis for patients to be simplified
Bern, 22.06.2022 – The Federal Council wants to make it easier for patients to access medicinal cannabis. It therefore decided at its meeting on June 22 to lift the ban on cannabis for medicinal purposes from the Narcotics Act. Medical prescriptions no longer require an exceptional permit from the Federal Office of Public Health. The sale and consumption of cannabis for non-medical purposes, however, remains prohibited. The amendment to the law will come into force on August 1, 2022.
Sick people will have easier access to medical cannabis from August 1, 2022. The decision whether a cannabis medicine should be used therapeutically will be made by the doctor together with the patient. The FOPH’s exceptional approval for the use of medicinal cannabis will no longer be required. People suffering from severe chronic pain and spasticity in particular may benefit from the new regulation.
Until now, cannabis could not be cultivated, imported or processed into preparations for medical purposes without an exceptional permit. Even the treatment of patients with cannabis medicines that were not subject to authorization was only possible with an exceptional authorization from the FOPH and only in justified cases.
The demand for such permits has increased in recent years. This is administratively burdensome, delays treatment and no longer corresponds to the exceptional character envisaged by the Narcotics Law. The Federal Council therefore submitted an amendment to Parliament to remove the ban on cannabis for medical purposes, which was passed in March 2021. A narcotic prescription will still be required for such medicines.
Lack of evidence of efficacy for reimbursement
The amendment to the law does not change the requirements for reimbursement of cannabis medicines by mandatory health insurance. Currently, these are only reimbursed in exceptional cases. The Federal Council has had it examined whether there is a need for action in this area. However, the available evidence on the efficacy and appropriateness of cannabis medicines is currently insufficient for general reimbursement.
A contribution can be made by the data on medical treatment with cannabis medicines that will be collected by the federal government in the future. The mandatory data collection serves to monitor the development of the prescription of cannabis medicines and to gain more evidence on their effects. It is limited to the first seven years after the change in the law. The evidence obtained can support, but not replace, a specific application for reimbursement of cannabis medicines.
Adjustments to the implementation law necessary
Adjustments to the Narcotics Control Ordinance and the Narcotics Directory Ordinance are necessary to implement the amendment to the law. They will be adapted as of August 1, 2022. Among other things, the control measures for the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes will be regulated in detail. Swissmedic is responsible after the amendment of the law.