According to figures from the Foundation for Pharmaceutical Statistics (Stichting Farmaceutische Kengetallen, SFK,) less than 50,000 pharmacy-dispensed prescriptions were issued in 2019. This was a 5% decrease compared to the previous year. Whether this also means that the Dutch use less medical cannabis is doubtful. In comparison, CBD products are better sold online versus through drugstores.
The increasing use of cannabis medication from pharmacies in the Netherlands seems to have come to an end.
In 2019, community pharmacies dispensed about 5% less cannabis medication. As a result, the number of dispensed medication fell below 50,000 for the first time since 2017. The share of medical cannabis oil dispensed by pharmacies remains the same at about 55%.
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A look at cannabis medication trends in the Netherlands
The use of medical cannabis continued to increase until the first half of 2017. The number of prescriptions dispensed in 2017 was more than 53,000, an increase of 17.5% compared to the previous year.
The number of cannabis medication prescriptions fell by 4% in 2018 to more than 51,000. Based on dispensing figures of 2019, SFK expects the total for the previous year to be 48,500 pharmacy-dispensed prescriptions, a decrease of approximately 5%.
The global legal cannabis market will be worth $13,346 billion by 2019, according to the Brightfield Group, and 80% of these sales will be made in the United States.
Bedrocan faces criticism from pharmacists about cannabis medication
Whether the number of patients using cannabis medication decreases proportionally is doubtful. The SFK only measures on the basis of figures from the legal medical cannabis supply. This is done in the Netherlands under the responsibility of the Bureau Medicinale Cannabis (BMC) which falls under the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.
The BMC supervises the cultivation of medical cannabis, which is currently only done by the supplier Bedrocan. Bedrocan produces five dried varieties of cannabis with different proportions of active substances. Since 2015, some pharmacies have been using cannabis from Bedrocan to prepare cannabis medication and oils with different concentrations of THC and CBD.
There is a lot of criticism of cannabis and cannabis oil from the pharmacy. The five types of Bedrocan cannabis products are far from sufficient for the wide range of ailments in which cannabis treats.
That’s why many patients prefer to grow their own medical cannabis. This gives them ultimate control over the type of cannabis and the method of cultivation. There’s a risk involved because growing cannabis yourself is forbidden.
Local foundations help citizens get better access to cannabis
Another group of patients turns to a foundation such as Suver Nuver or SNSH. These are foundations that challenge the law to provide people with high-quality cannabis medication at the lowest possible price.
According to Rinus Beintema, founder of Suver Nuver, the number of members that buy cannabis oil from him is increasing every day.
Finally, SFK did not include the number of sales of CBD oil in its figures either. Sales of this beneficial cannabis extract without THC have risen sharply in recent years. Some pharmacies sell it, but the vast majority of CBD products are sold online or through the drugstore.
So do these figures say anything about the number of users of medical cannabis in the Netherlands? Probably little to nothing. It does suggest that the legal policy is inadequate; a problem that various experts have been raising with the government for years.
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First published in Mediwietsite, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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