A Cork woman who has been prescribed medical cannabis for chronic pain by her consultant is having to live in Spain to access it because she can’t get it reimbursed on her medical card.
Alicia Maher, 37, from Mayfield in Cork City, wants to return from Spain, where she has been living since 2019, having travelled there to access cannabis legally and safely to treat the chronic pain she has been in for several years following surgery.
Before taking cannabis for pain, she was on 30 tablets per day. Now, she is on none.
“I don’t think anyone should have to move abroad to access a medication that is working for them,” she told the Irish Examiner. “It should be simple.”
Although she subsequently was successful in having cannabis prescribed under Ministerial Licence by her Irish-based pain consultant, Alicia says that a monthly dose would cost her €1,000 if she moved back to Ireland because it is not covered by her medical card. It costs her just a quarter of that in Spain.
If chronic pain was one of the health conditions covered by the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP), she would have been able to get the cost covered.
A two-day series about medical cannabis begins in the Irish Examiner in print and online on Monday, August 1. Patients including Alicia Maher tell their stories, and Ann Murphy also talks to experts including medics, politicians, and gardaí. You can read the series by clicking here from 2am on Monday.
However, the conditions included in that programme are currently limited to just three — spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis; intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy.
Alicia’s parents remain in Cork, while other family members she cannot regularly see include her siblings and her nephews and nieces. She said:
It is absolutely shocking that families are broken up over this.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “For medical indications not included in the MCAP, doctors may continue to utilise the Ministerial licencing route to prescribe medical cannabis