Medical cannabis poised to hit pharmacy market

Dorota Gudaniec with her son Max, who suffers from drug-resistant epilepsy. After medical cannabis treatment, he can live normally. Maciej Kulczyński/PAP

Anybody wanting to take medical cannabis in Poland for health reasons could soon get their chance, with the drug poised to make its debut on the Polish pharmacy market.

Spectrum Cannabis, a Canadian firm specialising in the development and application of the drug, has registered one of its products with the health authorities and hopes it will be on sale come mid-September.

It estimates that as many as 300,000 people in Poland might be interested in using the product.

Medical cannabis can be used to treat a wide—and growing—spectrum of ailments that includes epilepsy, nausea, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis, and can also be used offset some of the side effects of chemotherapy.

According to Tomasz Witkowski, country manager for Spectrum Cannabis in Poland, the company will first sell dried quantities of the drug with the aim of introducing cannabis oils and capsules at a later date.

Poland legalised the use of cannabis, also known as medical marijuana, for medicinal purposes last year but its appearance on the market has been delayed by apparent legal confusion.

Although stringent legislation on active substances in pharmaceutical raw materials designed to ensure doses are always the same and have the same results, it has so far deterred producers from entering the market.

While many in Poland may welcome the news that medical cannabis will soon hit the market, any joy may be cooled by the cost. Although legal to sell, Polish law prohibits the production of medicinal marijuana meaning that the product has to be imported, and this comes at a price.

The Polish Pharmaceutical Chamber estimates that a monthly course of the drug could set a patient back by as much as PLN 2,000.

Another problem lies in the fact that few pharmacists have any experience when it comes to handling the drug and preparing medication, and that many doctors remain unfamiliar with its properties and uses.

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