Health

Could Czech Republic be Europe’s Most Progressive Medical Cannabis Market?

Sales of medical cannabis in the Czech Republic increased year-over-year by 63% in 2021. The space is expected to show potential for further growth in the next twelve months on the back of a recent law change that could lead to lower prices due to medical cannabis as it opens up the country’s legal market in front of farmers.

Official figures reveal that a total of 109.4 kg of medical cannabis was released to Czech patients last year compared to 66.9 kg in 2020, as the country now adopts one of the most extensive attitudes in Europe towards the legalization of cannabis. On average, 9.1 kg of medicinal cannabis was distributed each month in the Czech Republic last year, compared to an average of only 5.6 kg in the same time frame in 2020.

Statistics from the State Agency for Medicinal Cannabis (SAKL) also revealed that the last three months of 2021 saw the most prescriptions, with 5,500 prescriptions dispensed between October and the end of December. The total for this year was 19,441 — up 37% from 2020 — with November the busiest month as doctors distributed 1,976 prescriptions.

Overall, more than 1,000 prescriptions are issued each month – the first time this has happened since medical cannabis was legalized in the Czech Republic in 2013.

Patients and Prescribers

The vast majority of medical cannabis prescribed to patients – 80% – was to help relieve chronic pain, followed by multiple sclerosis at 12%. Parkinson’s disease was also in the top three.

The unique number of medical cannabis patients in the Czech Republic also increased year-on-year by 22.5% from 3,755 to 4,601, according to SAKL.

This is in stark contrast to 2019 when by the end of the year only 434 patients were prescribed medical cannabis, with doctors issuing 4,145 prescriptions – an average of 345 per month.

Curiously, according to official data for 2020, 61.8% of patients with medical cannabis in the Czech Republic are female, with only 38.2% being men. This demographic data differs from most other countries in Europe, where for the most part there are a majority of male patients who take medical cannabis. The same report indicated that 43.3% of all patients were aged 56-75, followed by 19.84% in the 45-55 age group, and 17.3% between 76-85.

The latest SAKL numbers show that the number of registered physicians authorized to issue medicinal cannabis has increased from 78 at the end of 2019 to 170 in 2020 and 191 last year.

The steady increase in the issuance of prescriptions, the number of patients and doctors since 2019, can be attributed to the fact that since the beginning of 2020, 90% of the price of medical cannabis has been covered by health insurance with a maximum of 30 grams per month.

The Czech government has also set a maximum price of €6.41 per gram, making the nation one of the most affordable markets in Europe for medical cannabis.

progressive legislation

With 2022 less than a month away, Alex Khordajy, an analyst at Prohibition Partners, believes the Czech Republic could be on track to register another new year for its medical cannabis program.

He said, “The numbers are increasing year on year and I don’t see them decreasing anytime soon. Products are getting cheaper for insurers, their availability is getting more, and the number of doctors willing to prescribe them is steadily increasing.”

“I think there is definitely potential for another big leap forward this year.”

A major role in this is likely to be played by the relaxation of medical cannabis legalization, which took effect on January 1 in the Eastern European country. From New Year’s Day, doctors no longer need to issue a special prescription to medical cannabis patients, as everything is done electronically using electronic prescriptions.

The level of THC in industrial hemp has also more than tripled from 0.3% to 1% of dried substances, including dyes and consumables, putting the country in conflict with the United Nations International Narcotics Convention, which is still more than 60 years after ratification on her. Defines global drug policy.

However, it brings the Czech Republic in line with Switzerland, where a similar regulation has been in place since 2011, but far exceeds the future threshold set by the European Union under the new Common Agricultural Policy adopted in December last year, which will see the THC agreement. Industrial hemp level increased from 0.2% to 0.3% from January 1, 2023.

Under new legislation in the Czech Republic, cannabis extracts or tinctures containing less than 1% THC are also no longer considered addictive. More people can also grow medical cannabis legally, with production and distribution processed in the same way as any other addictive substance.

Supply and demand

Although the Czech Republic was among the first European countries to legalize the use of medicinal cannabis nearly a decade ago, the early years were plagued by supply problems. Only imported supplies were initially available.

The past few years have seen the Czech State Drug Control Institute (SUKL), which runs the National Medical Cannabis Agency, purchase a certain amount of cannabis from a selected supplier that won a public purchase. But it is hoped that the new law will increase competition, helping to lower the prices of medicinal cannabis-based preparations.

Khordaje says the move effectively opens the market for private companies to relocate to the Czech Republic. “This means that the Czech Republic will be one of the most advanced medical markets in Europe.

“The country is already a very advanced R&D and technology area, so that combined with a change of law means we are likely to see a lot of variety in the products on offer.

“Based on the higher levels of competition we expect to see, we assume that medicinal cannabis and CBD prices will naturally decrease domestically. But the new law also opens the way for the Czech Republic to become a major player not only in Europe, but internationally as well.

“By raising the THC threshold for cannabis products, this means that they can not only produce CBD extracts more economically, but also make them cheaper for both companies and consumers.”

Khordajy adds: “The Czech Republic has not been the focus of Europe in the medical cannabis market, but I think there will be more interest going forward. I think we can see Canadian companies looking to the Czech Republic now as well as more Czech entities in European and international markets, Especially in the area of ​​CBD.

“The Czech Republic is undoubtedly one of the most advanced countries on the eastern side of Europe, which I think has a lot to do with the burgeoning IT and R&D sectors.

“The country is looking to boost their economy and they are taking a scientific approach to that, which is why I think they are opening their arms to medical cannabis.”

The Czech Republic is opening the market to private entities in a similar way to Portugal – which decriminalized the use of all medicines in 2001 and legalized the use of medicinal cannabis in 2018 – by allowing companies to grow medical cannabis.

“Year after year, the Czechs are making more and more progress,” Khordaje said. It’s great for patients and for the European medical cannabis market in general. “

For an in-depth exploration of cannabis markets around the world, see The Global Cannabis: Second Edition released by Prohibition Partners.

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