It is too expensive to buy medical cannabis legally
Per Reipurth is a pensioner and must spend up to one-third of his income if he wants to buy medical cannabis legally. Price over €4000 forces him out on the illegal market
"Should you become a criminal just because you are sick? I just think that can't be right."
– It’s way too much money. I can’t imagine it’s so expensive to produce.
The words come from 72-year-old Per Reipurth.
He lives in the small town of Storring between Aarhus and Silkeborg and five years ago got a new knee. Since then, he has been dealing with nerve pain.
For several years after the operation, he was prescribed morphine before, following requests from others, he tried cannabis oil, which he obtained through his network.
Cannabis oil is not approved, or laboratory tested, but after 14 days, Per Reipurth noticed a change.
– I experienced a marked improvement, and I did not have as much pain as I used to, he says. He then contacted a clinic in Copenhagen to find out if he could legally get medical cannabis prescribed by a doctor.
He could do that. There was just one problem: the price.
– I was surprised that it cost ten times as much as what you could buy in the so-called free market, he says, adding:
– As I also told my doctor, the worst thing that could happen was that it worked well and that I still had to stop treatment because I am retired and cannot spend 30,000 or maybe 40,000 DKK a year on medicine.
Therefore, he chose not to accept the offer.
Although Per Reipurth can receive 10,000 DKK, he can’t get the money.
– It couldn’t be done. I don’t know what the heck I should give up for it, and when there was an alternative to a tenth of the price, it was a relatively easy decision, I think.
Can’t be right
47-year-old Annemette Eeg from Copenhagen also uses medical cannabis.
She has chosen to pay the price to buy it legally but understands well those who choose a different path because they have difficulty getting the money.
She thinks medical cannabis costs way too much.
– Should you become a criminal just because you’re sick? I think that can’t be right, she says.
Several sources confirm that the price is the reason why many are searching the illegal market to acquire medical cannabis, even if they can get it legally.
One of them is Peter Leutscher, a consultant at the Regional Hospital of North Jutland and founder of the Clinical Cannabis Forum.
– Either the patients stop taking medicine, or they end up taking a substitute – another cannabis drug – on the black market, which could possibly compensate or replace that medicine. Still, we have none of that guarantee, he says.
The Danish Medicines Agency warns against use
As is the case with Per Reipurth’s cannabis oil, one of the biggest problems with illegal cannabis is that it has not been tested well enough.
You do not know precisely what is in it, which is why the Danish Medicines Agency strongly warns against buying illegal cannabis drugs.
– Just because you do not know what the products contain and how they are manufactured, we do not know how they work and thus not what side effects they have. Using these products can be very dangerous to one’s health, says specialist consultant at the Danish Medicines Agency Karen Juul Jensen.
Even so, there are people who deal with illegal cannabis.
DR has contacted a Northern Jutland “cannabis” mediator, who estimates that up to 400 people have reached her to get hold of illegal cannabis.
She wants to be anonymous but wants to tell why she does it and who she sells to.
– There are many different disease groups. There are relatives of sick people, sick people who cannot get help from the public, and ill people who have given up, she says.
She says that she has helped a woman who bought medicine for DKK 4,700 at the pharmacy, instead of using an illegal oil that costs DKK 250.
You are not a doctor, after all. Have you thought about whether it is right what you do?
– I do that every single day. You become humble and sit close to people’s lives sometimes, and there is a lot of trust between me and those I guide. I do not conduct anything that we have not even tried, she says.
Oil from Spain and France
She says that illegal oil comes from Spain and France, but there are also Danish products. That cannabis oil is being tested in a laboratory in the Netherlands.
The woman has also used illegal oil herself for many years due to pain. She wants one day to grow her own cannabis plant in the garden and make her own medicine if it can help you get better.
You have no qualms about maybe giving people a hope that isn’t right?
– No, too early in any conversation, I would say to them that there is no guarantee of medical cannabis. It is essential to do some self-study and take responsibility for your own life, and that is really what our struggle is about. Your life, your responsibility. It’s one of our motto, she says.
Requirements make medical cannabis expensive
The Danish Medicines Agency is extremely skeptical of the methods used by the illegal distributors.
Even if it may be attractive to patients.
– Of course, they want to get well as soon as possible. At the same time, the illegal companies are advertising that it is harmless and safe to use and that it is manufactured safely. Still, unfortunately, it is not true, says Karen Juul Jensen.
For example, it is not possible to calculate whether the content of the euphoric substance THC is below the permitted 0.2 percent.
The same message comes from one of the legal manufacturers approved under the current trial of medical cannabis company CannGros.
CannGros has three products on the list of approved products and, according to director Henrik Uth, are not among the most expensive on the market.
One gram costs DKK 78.50 here, and typically a patient gets 5 to 15 grams a month, he says.
Henrik Uth believes that it is challenging to produce cheaper. The market is relatively small, and there are several rules and requirements that you have to comply with if you follow the legislation.
– It ensures that there is uniformity, that the product is stable, and that there is what is on the label, which is essential for patient safety, says Henrik Uth.
Therefore, legal, medical cannabis basically costs more.
– It’s the price that people sometimes go out and compare to things on the black market. But you can’t, he continues.
Evaluation of scheme on the way
The Sclerosis Association is trying to get a new subsidy so that people like Per Reipurth are not sent out into the illegal market.
– We have to look at how to get the price down. These are seriously ill people, and I think you can understand that some people cannot afford to pay three, four, or five thousand a month for their medicine. Then it is clear that you are prepared to do anything to live a reasonably healthy life, says director Klaus Høm.
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke acknowledged that the current medical cannabis trial scheme is not working as desired and that he will launch a mid-term review.
Whether this will lead to lower prices or increased subsidies is uncertain.