Will Sativex Make it to French Pharmacies?
In 2014, France’s Health Ministry gave the green light to Sativex, the first cannabis-based medicine in the country. The prescription-only mouth spray is manufactured by U.K.-based G.W. Pharmaceuticals, and is intended for multiple sclerosis patients with severe muscle spasms.
Although many in France favor the use of medicinal cannabis – an informal poll in Le Parisien reports that more than 70 percent of respondents support it – the country maintains some of the strictest cannabis laws in Europe. Sativex is already available in 15 European countries, and France’s late arrival to the party reflects the state’s longtime harsh stance on therapeutic cannabis.
Unsurprisingly, the approval of Sativex gained widespread media attention with some outlets even speculating as to whether the move could be a step toward a more general legalization of medical cannabis in France.
“Is the pharmaceutical industry on its way to becoming a leading global producer of cannabis?” read a 2014 headline in Atlantico after Sativex received authorisation for commercial distribution.
However, although Sativex was expected to hit French pharmacies in early 2015, to date, the drug has yet to arrive. According to the latest reports, Almirall, the laboratory that markets Sativex in Europe, and the country’s Economic Committee for Health Products (CEPS) are at loggerheads.
While Almirall priced Sativex at €350 per box, 20 percent less than the average cost, CEPS offered to set the price at €60 euro.
“This is unacceptable,” said Christophe Vandeputte, the director of Almirall in France, as quoted in a June 2015 article in Le Monde. “It would sell at a loss.”
The ongoing dispute has the country wondering whether when the drug will become available, or if it will at all.
“Will Sativex arrive before Christmas?” the French Magazine Faire Face asked in an August 2015 headline. Meanwhile, more than 60,000 people have signed a Change.org petition denouncing the economic deadlock and demanding that the drug be made available to patients suffering from MS.
In the meantime, the French media have been looking across the Atlantic to the U.S., where 23 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation in favor of medicinal cannabis.
A 2014 20Minutes.fr article reports on medicinal cannabis practices in the U.S., and acknowledges both its medicinal benefits of cannabis, as well as the economic boost that Sativex and other forms of medical cannabis provide.
“A single medication with a THC and CBD base like Sativex can easily replace up to four other drugs thanks to its properties,” Fabienne Lopez, the president of l’association Principes Actifs, a pro-medicinal cannabis organization, told 20 Minutes. “In some cases there is no longer a need for anti-inflammatories or morphine derivatives.”
“More and more countries are legalizing medical cannabis,” Lopez added. For us French, it’s a glimmer of hope.”
Since the drug has yet become available, the impact of Sativex on France’s pharmaceutical industry remains to be seen. However, while the powers that be continue to battle it out, it’s clear that the French public is ready for medicinal cannabis and the numerous benefits it could bring.
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