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Switzerland Clarifies Rules For Dispensing Medical Cannabis

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Medical cannabis treatment will no longer require a special permit in Switzerland, although it is unclear whether health insurance will cover it.

Until now, doctors in Switzerland had to obtain a special exemption permit from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) to issue prescriptions for cannabis. Last year about 3,000 permits were issued. Those days have now come to a close. According to the Federal Council, this procedure is no longer appropriate, given the rising numbers of patients. Namely, it makes treatment more difficult and delays its start. As a result, the Grand Chamber of Parliament is proposing lifting the ban on the same in the Narcotics Act.

The new law stipulates that cannabis therapy should be a matter only between doctor and patient. The government will monitor prescriptions, however, and practitioners will have to submit data on the same to the government.

Insurance coverage in Switzerland has still not been decided. So for now, patients must still cover the cost of their medications.

Will Switzerland Go The Way of Holland?

The ability to prescribe cannabis directly is one of the biggest things that began to move the German market forward – but so was the ability to obtain coverage by insurers – at least in theory. There have been multiple issues between legislation and reality, to the point that patients continue to sue for access. Indeed as of October, a new ruling by the Social Benefits court ruled that the regional approvers, called the MDK, cannot interfere in the relationship between doctor and patient when it comes to prescription for the longer term.

However, trial programs, such as the ones that exist in Luxembourg, Germany, and to some extent Denmark, are also in danger of literally being overrun by the recreational discussion now also in the room. It is far easier for patients to obtain their cannabis, barring the cost, if they do not have to interact with the medical system. Indeed, that is the decision Holland made just as Germany was making the move to incorporate coverage under the formal medical infrastructure that includes insurers and regional approvers.

Given the slow trajectory Switzerland has taken so far, despite the popularity of the non-medical “Cannabis Lite” it is not unreasonable to assume that they might too, decide that cannabis is an expensive and unnecessary medicine and leave patients to their own devices.

The jury, if not report, is still out.

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