The Federal Council wishes to facilitate access to medical cannabis treatment
Bern, 24.06.2020 – The Federal Council intends to facilitate access to medical cannabis treatments. At its meeting on 24 June 2020, the Federal Council adopted the dispatch to parliament on the amendment of the Federal Narcotics Law (LStup). The LStup provides for patients to have access to cannabis-based treatments on medical prescription. In future, such prescriptions will no longer require exceptional authorisation from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). Nevertheless, prescriptions will be monitored. On the other hand, nothing changes for recreational cannabis, which continues to be banned.
Thousands of patients are already receiving medical cannabis as part of their treatment. This applies in particular to cases of cancer or multiple sclerosis, where it is used to relieve chronic pain.
At present, doctors who wish to prescribe cannabis-based treatment must, in most cases, apply to the FOPH for an exceptional authorisation. This procedure complicates access to treatment, delays the start of therapies, and is no longer adequate in view of the increasing number of applications. In 2019, the FOPH issued almost 3000 authorisations, to which should be added, in view of the complexity of the procedure, patients who obtain their supplies directly on the illicit cannabis market.
Lifting the ban on the use of cannabis for medical purposes
In order to facilitate the use of cannabis for medical purposes, the Federal Council proposes the abolition of the current ban in the Narcotics Law. The substantive decision as to whether a cannabis-based medicine should be used will be taken between doctor and patient. Recreational cannabis, on the other hand, continues to be banned. During the consultation, both the cantons and the political parties and circles concerned supported the principle of amending the law.
Authorised cultivation and export
The cultivation, manufacture and marketing of cannabis for medical use will be possible within the framework of the authorisation and control system provided by Swissmedic. The same applies to the export of cannabis for medical purposes. The parallel adaptation of agricultural legislation will also enable agriculture to benefit from the lifting of the ban.
Monitoring and evaluation desired by the cantons
In order to monitor the evolution of the use of cannabis for medical purposes and to increase knowledge about its effectiveness, a systematic data collection for a fixed period of time will be set up. Treating physicians will thus be obliged to transmit to the FOPH data relating to treatment, including the use of cannabis-based medicines. These data will serve both as a basis for the scientific evaluation of the measures resulting from this revision, and as a reference for the services of cantonal doctors and pharmacists, prescribing doctors and clinical research.
Review of compulsory reimbursement
Reimbursement of cannabis-based treatments by the compulsory health insurance has not been addressed in this amendment to the law. This aspect is the subject of a separate evaluation. This will aim in particular to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of cannabis-based treatments that could pave the way for reimbursement. The report on this subject is expected in 2021.