Denmark’s medical cannabis pilot program continues to show steady improvement, with the number of patients exceeding the 2,000 mark.
The country’s business-friendly, patient-centric medical cannabis scheme is one of the most ironed-out systems in Europe.
Through the end of April, just over 2,100 individual patients had been prescribed medical cannabis via the four-year pilot program, which was launched in January 2018, according to fresh data presented by Danish Health Minister Ellen Trane Nørby at the European Cannabis Symposium in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Another 335 non-Danish patients – mostly from Sweden – had also accessed medical marijuana to treat a variety of ailments.
The Danish Medicines Agency expected 500 patients in the first year.
Nørby said 429 doctors had prescribed medical cannabis, demonstrating the stigma surrounding MMJ within the Danish medical community is slowly eroding.
Patients were primarily women between 42 and 64 years of age, with the lead use being treatment of symptoms related to neuropathic pain.
Danish cultivators are gearing up to start domestic and international shipments this year, which will increase supply and cut prices in the country.
“We would like to see the export business getting to full scale in Denmark, hopefully within a couple of months to a maximum of one year,” Nørby said during her keynote in Copenhagen.
She said the Danish Medicines Agency has decided not to regulate medical cannabis prices, instead opting for a free-market approach.
“If we want to benefit the patients in the long run when it comes to prices, there needs to be competition,” she said.
Like Canada, advertising for cannabis products is banned in Denmark.
“Just as we do not (allow) advertising for other drugs, we do not want to see advertising for medical cannabis,” Nørby said.
“That puts restraints on how you put forward your product. However, I think it’s necessary in order to have the same trustworthiness for medical cannabis as we have for other life science businesses and the medical community.”
Nørby said Denmark elected to offer reimbursement for medical marijuana expenses because prices so far in the regulated scheme “are simply too high to compete with the illegal market as well as patients’ ability to pay.”
Reimbursements are available for up to 50% of the cost of the medicine, up to 10,000 Danish kroner ($1,500) annually.
Doctors in Denmark can prescribe medical cannabis for any condition, but there are recommendations for four areas:
- Painful spasms caused by multiple sclerosis.
- Painful spasms caused by spinal cord damage.
- Nausea after chemotherapy.
- Neuropathic pain, i.e. pain stemming from a disease of the brain, spinal cord or nerves.
Through the pilot program, Danish patients are able to access six products so far, including cannabis flower imported from Bedrocan in the Netherlands and Stenocare’s oral solutions – produced by CannTrust and imported from Canada.
Products such as dronabinol, Sativex, Marinol and Cesamet also are available in the country, but they fall outside the pilot system.
A number of domestic and international cannabis companies are using Denmark as the linchpin of their strategies to tap the European market for medical marijuana, including Canada’s Canopy Growth and rival producer Aurora Cannabis.