Update on the Danish medicinal cannabis pilot programme
The Danish medicinal cannabis pilot programme entered into force on 1 January 2018 and allows doctors to prescribe new types of cannabis products. The object of the programme is to offer patients a lawful way of testing treatment with medicinal cannabis, if they have experienced no benefits from authorised medicines and thereby to respond to patients’ self-medication by way of illegal products. The Danish Medicines Agency assesses that medicinal cannabis should be considered only for a few different indications for which there is supporting evidence of the effect of medicinal cannabis. This includes painful spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or spinal cord damage, nausea after chemotherapy, and neuropathic pain.
Originally, the Danish medicinal cannabis pilot programme was planned to expire at end-December 2021 after a four-year trial period, see our previous article. The Danish Ministry of Health published its evaluation of the pilot programme at end-November 2020, which led to debate among health professionals and experts in the field, as well as criticism of the programme. Despite debate and criticism, the evaluation essentially concluded that the pilot programme provided a proper and safe framework for the use of medicinal cannabis. Furthermore, the evaluation showed that patients associations and the cannabis industry wished for the programme to become permanent or to continue for an additional number of years before turning permanent. For further details on the evaluation, please refer to our previous article and this article.
Development scheme for the cultivation and handling of medicinal cannabis
Besides the medicinal cannabis pilot programme, a special development scheme for the cultivation of cannabis in Denmark was introduced on 1 January 2018. Under this scheme, companies can apply for an authorisation to cultivate and handle cannabis with a view to producing cannabis suitable for medicinal use. This scheme runs in parallel with the medicinal cannabis pilot programme and applies only to applications for cultivation and production of cannabis for medicinal use. At present, 23 companies have an authorisation to cultivate cannabis under the development scheme, see here (in Danish only).
Renewal of the Danish medicinal cannabis pilot programme
At the beginning of 2021, former Minister of Health, Magnus Heunicke, initiated political discussions regarding the future of the pilot programme. In December 2021, the political discussions resulted in the renewal of the existing Danish medicinal cannabis pilot programme.
Thus, the medicinal cannabis pilot programme has been extended for four years as regards the possibility for doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients. The programme applies from 1 January 2022 until 31 December 2025. As a consequence of the renewal of the programme, all licenses in the pilot programme must be re-issued, and application forms for imported as well as Danish-grown cannabis products will be updated.
Companies may now, in addition, permanently grow and manufacture bulk cannabis and cannabis starting products for medicinal use. The object of making the cultivation and manufacturing part permanent is to create clarification and security for the investments made in the industry.
At Medicinpriser.dk (Danish Medicines Agency “Medicine Prices”), you can see which cannabis products are available for prescription and subsequent dispensing at a pharmacy. As of 19 January 2023, seven different products are available for prescription, most of which are in the forms of herbal tea or inhalation vapour.
The Minister of Health must re-evaluate the Danish medicinal cannabis pilot programme by the end of 2024.
Please find a link to the evaluation of the medicinal cannabis pilot programme conducted by the Danish Ministry of Health (in Danish only) together with a link to the Act amending the Act on the medicinal cannabis pilot programme (in Danish only).