Patients have run out of patience: “We don’t have access to treatment, cannabis is an urgency”
We publish below the letter that the Medical Cannabis Patients Committee wrote directly to the Minister of Health Roberto Speranza, highlighting that due to the lack of medical cannabis, patients are unable to access treatment, and that the situation is once again becoming critical despite the reassurance received. All this while Walter De Benedetto, a patient who for years asked that the quantities of cannabis supplied be increased, without obtaining an answer, is on trial for having cultivated it.
Dear Minister of Roberto Speranza,
I am writing to you on behalf of CANNABIS MEDICA PATIENTS COMMITTEE , an association of patients based in Sicily, but which operates throughout the national territory, which promotes and supports the legal, social and health protection of all sick, disabled and handicapped people, through information activities on the therapeutic possibilities linked to cannabis for medical use.
We have been in contact with the Ministry for too long for not having had concrete answers , indeed, witnessing the growth of European national markets, such as the German one, while in Italy we have witnessed, in a moment of global medical crisis, a restriction of access to medical cannabis, by the sick. This was shortly before the relocation, by the UN at the push of the WHO, of cannabis in the table of drugs, effectively eliminating it from the table of drugs of abuse.
As you know, the problems we have highlighted several times are:
– Insufficient supply of medical cannabis in Italy.
– The ineffectiveness and inefficiency of the Italian procurement plan .
– The difficulty in accessing care.
– The limitation of research possibilities related to medical cannabis.
– The absence of training on cannabis as a medicine.
– The absence of harmonization of patient treatment in the different Regions.
– The continuing underestimation of the medical market.
– The opportunities offered by the law and international success stories, which can be replicated under current law.
What happened to our requests as patient representatives, doctors, pharmacists, and researchers?
The quantities of cannabis are insufficient . Through the Florence project, the Ministry of Health had foreseen a production, by 2020, of 500 kilograms of cannabis inflorescences. Only 150 kilograms left the Florence plant, of which 50 were FM2 and 100 were imported. Based on the diseases treatable with medical cannabis, estimates of the demand for inflorescences could be worth 7 tons per year , for 20 million patients. There are health care companies, whose expected supplies, communicated at the end of 2020, have not been respected and, to date, no delivery times have been defined for medical cannabis. For example, there are health companies that have not received the FM2 variety for six months.
Given the art. 18 quater , of Law Decree No. 184 of 16 October 2017, laying down provisions on the production and processing of cannabis for medical use, the Military Pharmaceutical Chemical Plant of Florence, failed:
– to meet the national need for cannabis for medical use.
– To ensure therapeutic continuity .
– To carry out published clinical studies .
– To carry out compulsory programs of continuing education in medicine for the periodic updating of medical, health, social and health personnel and in this way contributed to disinformation by penalizing the sick.
– No new import authorizations have been issued to new medical cannabis companies;
– No other authorizations have been issued for the cultivation of medical cannabis and the only authorization that has been heard through the newspapers concerns the production of cannabis for CBD, without THC; there are now no doubts about the superiority in terms of efficacy and safety of the entire phytocomplex.
– No authorizations are issued for the importation , nor for the internal production of other pharmaceutical grade medical cannabis varieties.
We are witnessing a marginalization of activities linked to the dissemination of information, given by the measures implemented against pharmacies specialized in medical cannabis and the limitations imposed on the home delivery of pharmaceutical preparations. Unfortunately, the set of points listed above generates a series of critical issues for the sick. The doctors are not trained and patients are struggling to find reference specialists, able to direct them to the most appropriate individual therapy. The pharmacists are not trained and patients are struggling to find pharmacies are able to prepare the drug pharmaceutics properly.
Patients do not have the same treatment from region to region . We find regions where paid cannabis is prescribed for migraines, we also find regions where reimbursement is not applied, not even for the few pathologies recognized locally and nationally.
Medical cannabis, a market with an estimated potential value of between 30 and 80 billion euros per year, has generated strong interest among numerous Italian municipalities, from north to south, to welcome projects on cannabis cultivation. These numbers are not comparable to the figures allocated by the ministry of health. The sums allocated, of just over 2 million euros per year, for the production and import of medical cannabis, have proved not to be sufficient and have not met any set objectives.
The costs incurred are double compared to the average market values . How is it possible? how was this money spent? An internal activity could initiate cost efficiency processes. A benchmark must be set for the purchase price of cannabis and the method of calculation must be transparent. The cost established for the purchase of cannabis produced by the Florence plant, equal to 5.93 euros per gram, is more than double the average market cost which is between 2.00 and 2.50 euros per gram. .
Another problem that has emerged, in addition to the Ministry’s out-of-market cannabis purchase, are the estimates on the pharmaceutical market . A reliable estimate of the potential users of medical cannabis-based therapies are 20 million Italians, for 7.3 tons of cannabis per year. Current estimates are not significantly comparable to actual numbers.
New projects are no longer needed, but new models of medical, scientific and industrial development, the ministry’s skills must develop the projects, sketched out with the Lorenzin decree in 2015.
In light of these considerations, we ask for it to be established as soon as possible and to be able to participate in the technical table at the Ministry of Health , as representatives of patients, doctors and pharmacists. We are aware of the meetings that are taking place at your Ministry, in order to resolve the problems highlighted above; problems, for which professionals and projects are already available, already presented to the ministry in July 2020 to propose solutions to the problems listed above.
Looking forward to your kind reply, I offer my best regards,