Following the agreement of the health authorities, some establishments are experimenting with therapeutic cannabis, such as the Timole hospital in Marseille.
In Marseille, the Timone hospital is one of the pilot sites in France. It is hosting some of the 3,000 patients who will be participating in this experiment throughout France for two years. The experiment is being conducted in "215 centres across the country", according to the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM), which has given the green light.
The Minister of Health Olivier Véran visited the Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital at the end of March for the "first prescription" of this drug.
"This is a big step forward"Professor Olivier Blin, head of the pharmacology department at the Timone hospital in Marseille, one of the sites responsible for monitoring patients interested in the experiment, is enthusiastic.
"This meets the expectations of patients and CBD associations. We will remain vigilant on the effects, monitor them closely."He has been studying the medicinal characteristics of cannabis for several years. He is in fact carrying out a project to experiment with cannabidiol (CBD) on Parkinson's patients.
It specifies that it is not smoked cannabis. "There is a clear distinction between recreational and medical cannabis". The key point of this experiment, he says, is to identify suppliers who can provide quality-validated products.
"One of the main problems, in the absence of a framework, is the fact that some patients have gone to the streets to look for products identified as cannabis, but which are not. They contain pollutants or synthetics that can be deadly."says Professor Blin.
"Thanks to the work of the pharmacovigilance and addictovigilance networks that are overseeing this experiment, we will know whether there are potential physical, cardiac, psychological and behavioural risks to using this molecule and what precise benefits patients derive from it.he concludes.
A map of the 170 hospitals involved in the experiment can be found on the ANSM website.
Study the efficacy and safety of cannabis
The primary objective of this study will be to assess "the feasibility of the provision circuit" from oil or dried flowers that will be prescribed to patients, explains the Ministry of Health, highlighting a procedure "very secure".
What about the second? It will be a question of "collecting the first French data on the effectiveness and safety of cannabis in a medical context", with regard to the results obtained by its active molecules and in particular CBD, relaxing, anti-inflammatory and anticonvulsant, among others.
Who is concerned?
The first consultation must take place in one of these reference centres with patients who are already being treated in these specialised hospital services or referred by their GP. The decision to include the patient or not is made by the doctors of the reference centres.
Patients are only eligible if they suffer from serious illnesses: certain forms of epilepsy, neuropathic pain, side effects of chemotherapy, palliative care situations, or certain types of pain in multiple sclerosis.
But only "in cases of insufficient relief or poor tolerance" with existing treatments, according to the ANSM. Children may be included, in particular for forms of epilepsy that are refractory to treatment or in cancerology.
How is cannabis administered?
These drugs, in the form of oil by mouth (in bottles of drinkable solutions) or dried flowers by inhalation using a vaporizer, will be available in different dosages of the active substances - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
The prescription, initially in a hospital department, is made on a secure prescription (for 28 days maximum), as for any drug among which cannabis, illegal in France, is classified. This is not the case for CBD, which is a non-narcotic product, and therefore legal in France.
A general practitioner, trained and willing, can take over. The consent of patients to this trial, which allows the collection of the first French data on the effectiveness and safety of medical cannabis, leads to their registration in a follow-up register.
Cannabis for smoking is therefore excluded from the protocol. The Covid-19 epidemic contributed to delaying the launch of this experimentation, authorized by an October 2020 decree specifying that it should begin before the end of March 2021.
In the European Union, 17 countries have already authorized medical cannabis treatments.