A Maltese patient who applied to use medical cannabis has opened up about the exorbitant pricing that has led him to stop his prescribed treatment.
“The reality is that if you’re not rich you cannot get your legal medication… that’s the horrible truth,” Nigel* told Lovin Tomorrow.
He calculated patients were paying €5,390 for around 13 months of treatment, assuming they used 1 gram of cannabis a day
After the initial €70 for an application and €20 for a prescription paper is paid, a patient’s initial 15-day treatment costs €240. Afterwards, the patient needs to renew their application, which costs €50, plus the €20 for the paper.
Patients who want a second treatment will then be given a 30-day trial, which comes to €480, according to Nigel.
This procedure is repeated at the end of each trial, with the third treatment going for six months at a cost of €2,280. And patients who choose to split up their medicine into 15-day or 30-day slots, instead of six months at a time, will need to pay the renewal fee each time.
“The thing is, I am afraid for those really sick patients who cannot pay all those money for legal meds and another problem they face is that they don’t know any other sources where to get their medication, not even in the black market,” he said. “And not all patients require one gram a day. Some even require three to five grams a day even more due to the severity of their illness!”
“The fees are quite comparable to UK fees”
Speaking to Lovin Malta, a Maltese doctor explained the reason behind the high costs to access medical cannabis locally.
“I agree that the medicine is still very expensive, as well as the fees to obtain it – but it’s because of all the paperwork, the responsibility involved and follow-ups imposed on doctors by the Superintendent of Public Health. In that context, I think they are relatively reasonable,” the doctor said.
Under Maltese law, doctors prescribing medical cannabis must take responsibility for their patient’s access, something which is not done for most other medicines and has led to some doctors staying away from prescribing medical cannabis.
“It’s ridiculous that we have to fill in all these papers and made to take responsibility for the patients’ actions should they decide not to abide by the rules,” the doctor continued.
The doctor clarified that discounts are given to patients who do not work or have severe chronic issues like Fibromyalgia.
All fees were “directly proportional” to the work involved and responsibility which doctors have to take, the doctor continued.
“Unfortunately, all of this is just for one product which is legal, so it’s not even worth all the trouble. Only one product is legally available for patients after more than one year from legalisation, and this product is not suitable for most patients as it is extremely expensive – one needs a vaporiser which is also expensive and not everyone can vaporise, especially the elderly or patients who work,” they said.
The doctor emphasised another failure: still not allowing CBD products in Malta. CBD is a non-psychoactive product that is believed to have a range of therapeutic benefits and is widely available in high street pharmacies like Boots in the UK.
“No CBD product is yet legally available from pharmacies, making it very difficult to start patients on a safe product which will not give any major side effects,” the doctor ended.
*Client’s surname is being withheld due to confidentiality.