Israelis will have more access to medical cannabis and will not need a special license
The Knessets health committee decided on Tuesday that access to medical cannabis will be greatly expanded, with far more patients qualifying without needing to obtain a special license to use the drug.
The decision is part of a reform carried out by the Ministry of Health in recent months. Under the reforms, patients with a wide range of diseases and medical conditions will no longer be required to obtain a license to receive medical cannabis.
Under the approved regulations, patients will receive a prescription similar to that of other prescription drugs. The regulation will enter into force within six months, after the necessary preparations by the competent authorities.
The regulations stipulate that as of now, people suffering from the following diseases and medical conditions will be able to receive a prescription for cannabis: epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, dementia, autism (with no age limit), oncological diseases, multiple sclerosis, HIV/ AIDS and terminally ill patients with a life expectancy of less than six months.
These patients will no longer need a license but will be able to receive a prescription from specific doctors who will receive training in the use of cannabis.
This represents a change from current healthcare legislation, under which cancer patients with “an active cancer disease or those undergoing active cancer treatment to relieve symptoms or treat side effects” can obtain a cannabis license medical.
However, a delay in training specialized doctors capable of prescribing cannabis could slow down the process and delay the expected date for the new legislation to take effect.
According to the regulation, “some applicants for treatment with medical cannabis will be able to receive a prescription from a doctor instead of obtaining a license for the possession and use of cannabis”.
Until now, cannabis treatment was only authorized with a license approved by the Ministry of Health, resulting in long wait times and bureaucratic complexities as patients tried to get approval.
Opponents of the move say it will lead to addiction and drug addiction.
Currently, there are approximately 100,000 patients in Israel licensed for medical cannabis use, most of whom suffer from illness, pain and PTSD. During discussions on the regulations, patients have expressed concern that these particular diseases and conditions are not included in the new regulations.
“This is just the first stage; there are additional medical conditions that require attention and treatment,” said Knesset member Uriel Busso, chair of the commission.
Our focus is on patient well-being and a desire to relieve their pain, increase availability and access to physicians, and lower prices, while addressing concerns about drug abuse and harmful use,” he added. .
Aharon Shabi, director of the addiction treatment service at the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, said: “We need to ensure that prescriptions do not increase addiction and lead to further use of additional psychoactive substances.”
However, not everyone supports the decision.
“The regulations greatly increase the number of doctors who can approve the use of cannabis and the medical conditions that allow for its prescription,” said Professor Hagai Levine, president of the Israel Association of Public Health Physicians. “These add an unnecessary risk of addiction.”
Meanwhile, the Knesset Finance Committee has reduced and approved new medical bills as part of the transition from cannabis licenses to prescriptions.
In response to the committee’s request, the annual prescription fee for patients was reduced to 180 shekels instead of the original 220 shekels, and the self-participation fee will be set at 360 shekels.
During the previous discussion on the matter, the Finance Committee criticized the prices required for the issuance of licenses and prescriptions under the expected passage and asked the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance and health maintenance organizations (HMO ) to present the committee with lower prices for patients.
In response, ministries and HMOs argued that the prices were the lowest rates that could be set to allow the program to continue and that cannabis is not included in Israel’s health basket. They added that there are additional costs associated with training and recruiting doctors, providing more complex treatments to patients, and adapting computer systems, among others.
At the start of Tuesday’s discussions, the chair of the committee, Knesset Member Moshe Gafni, said he was unwilling to approve the proposed quota.
“Some of the services provided are essential and I don’t understand why there is a need to charge so much money for them. There are many patients in difficult financial situations,” he said.
During the discussion, Roee Kahan, head of the department of budget at Clalit Health Services, the largest HMO in the country, said that: “As part of this new move, it has been required to set up a system with doctors who issue prescriptions, a nursing system, a call center and we also need to set up a digital center.”
Since this issue is not included in Israel’s health care basket, I cannot enforce getting it from a doctor. If the Minister of Health had included the service in the health basket and budgeted for it accordingly, things would be different,” he added.
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