Quantum-Leap for Medicinal Cannabis in Germany

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NEW YORK — German health insurance companies doubt the effectiveness of cannabis therapies. Are cannabis treatments effective or not? Since March 2017, the health insurance companies have been paying for cannabis treatments. But there are still doubts about the medical usefulness of cannabis.

Cannabis Flos

Regarding cannabis therapies, health insurance companies continue to be skeptical. The effects of the plant are currently investigated further in clinical trials.

With the new laws, effective since March 10th, severely ill patients can fill prescriptions for cannabis at their pharmacy. Patients no longer need exemptions, licenses, or special permits, as they did before new laws passed. The health insurance funds are obliged to cover the costs. The law provides monthly treatment expenses of an average of 540 euros. The pricing model is clearly something that the health insurance companies are uncomfortable with.

Cannabis can alleviate symptoms in multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain in neuropathy or rheumatism. The active components of the hemp plant are further effective in increasing appetite among other things that people who suffer from cancer struggle. More research is underway, to provide data on who and what benefits from cannabis.

Until now, around 1,000 German patients have received exceptions for cannabis, by prescription from their doctors. For that project alone, 365 kilograms of plant material is needed ever year, to meet national demands. Doctors believe that the patient group will increase significantly after the implementation of the new laws.

However, health insurance companies are not yet entirely convinced of the effectiveness of cannabis. After all, according to a spokesman for the national regulatory authorities, the evidence is still lacking about the efficacy of the cannabis plant, the prerequisite for a “permanent and regular performance claim.” Only then can the treatment possibilities be expanded, which can be a real advance for a larger number of patients.

The onus is therefore on the Federal Government who has commissioned a new study at the Federal Office for the Environment, whose goal is to investigate the effects further. By this, in a few years, “the use of cannabis therapy will be a permanent feature of the statutory health insurance.”

The source of the drug is the hemp plant, with the Latin name “Cannabis sativa.” The active ingredients, so-called cannabinoids such as THC, are strongly concentrated in the resin of fully-grown and non-pollinated female buds.

All therapeutic effects of the hemp plant are not yet fully investigated. For this reason, the regulatory authorities are going to analyze the new data on the cannabis over five years. Doctors report to the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. Randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled clinical trials will yield new data on which cannabis treatments are effectively against which symptoms.

Only limited information on efficacy and safety is currently available on the use of cannabis and non-authorized cannabis extracts, the regulatory authorities said at the beginning of March. “Despite numerous publications, the amount of actual scientific data is still insufficient.”

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