By / April 4, 2020

Patients demand lower medical cannabis prices in Israel

The coronavirus pandemic has led to an extreme economic crisis and the dismissal of hundreds of thousands of salaried and self-employed workers. Among those affected by the crisis are many patients who use medical cannabis. Currently, in order to acquire cannabis-based products, they have to pay a much higher amount of money than they have paid so far.

Following the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, patients in Israel are now demanding the government to reduce the costs of cannabis in pharmacies, back to around $100 (NIS 370) per quantity, so they can continue to purchase their treatment as usual. 

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Israel’s Bar Association defending the rights of the patients

Last week, patients were joined by the Bar Association, which sent an official letter on the matter to Health Minister Jacob Litzman.

“In light of the inquiries from many patients, we appeal to you to stop the application of medical cannabis reform as long as emergency regulations are applied during these complex days,” the letter said. “The current price of medical cannabis made the treatment inaccessible to most patients and is being considered as a serious violation of their rights to maintain the therapeutic continuum at reasonable prices as before,” the Bar Association added. “We are seeing severe distress from patients being forced to pay huge sums of money every month for the same amount of cannabis-based medicines before the reform.”

The Bar Association also mentions that, “in light of the health emergency, the loss of livelihood and the need for isolation, the condition of the sick patients and the treatment expenses have become a very heavy burden in a population that is mostly pension-supported and find it difficult to earn a living. Therefore, while the country is in the middle of this economic crisis, medical cannabis prices should remain as they were before the reform.” 

Patients demand more accessible prices for cannabis

This demand to reduce medical cannabis prices also comes from the patients. “I am self-employed, treated with complementary medicine, suffering from PTSD,” said a patient from central Israel. “My income dropped to 0 due to the coronavirus crisis and I find it difficult to meet the payment deadlines.” She added: “So far I have paid $100 (NIS 370) a month and now I pay close to $270 (NIS 800), which is not too much to afford considering my salary.”

Even a mother of 4 children with a 100% disability and a monthly allowance of around $740 (NIS 2,700), is having trouble meeting the costs of medical cannabis, especially in recent days following the coronavirus crisis. “I now pay about $357 (NIS 1,300) for cannabis, and there are additional costs of medication, rent, food and more,” she described, noting that her 80-year-old father was helping her but couldn’t anymore. “The monthly allowance is all my income now. The help from Dad was to buy the drug but today he can’t help me and I have no idea how I will buy the drug next month,” she continued.

Despite complaints and requests to bring the prices back, even temporarily, to $100 (NIS 370), as was the case before the reform, some cannabis company owners made it clear that there is no such plan to reduce prices. According to them, production costs have not decreased or even increased and the chance that cannabis prices will fall is only if there is a fall in demand due to patients’ inability to pay.

Finally, the Ministry of Health has expressed support for price control according to a special model that has built a limit of around $50 (NIS 180) per 10 grams of cannabis, but the Treasury has opposed the regulation on the grounds that it could do more harm than good.


(Featured image by Terre di Cannabis on Unsplash)

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