POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Cannabis & doctor shortages at heart of health priorities



In 2018, Luxembourg legalised the sale of cannabis-based products for medical reasons Shutterstock

In 2018, Luxembourg legalised the sale of cannabis-based products for medical reasons Shutterstock

Luxembourg is in discussion with Canadian authorities about how to proceed in legalising recreational cannabis.

Outlining his ministry’s priorities for the future in parliament on Tuesday, health minister Etienne Schneider (LSAP) said that a two-stage approach had been mooted which would first seek to decriminalise the possession of recreational cannabis then seek to legalise its use.

Canada was the second country in the world after Uruguay to formally legalise the cultivation, possession, acquisition and consumption of cannabis and its by-products when the Cannabis Act came into force on 17 October 2018.

In 2018, Luxembourg legalised the sale of cannabis-based products for medical reasons. The health authority then worked with Canadian authorities on a strategy for supplying hospital pharmacies with the relevant drugs.

On 6 December, Canadian medical cannabis firm Aurora Cannabis announced it had secured a deal to supply Luxembourg with high-grade dried cannabis flowers.

Schneider said on Tuesday that some 150 GPs would receive specialist training in prescribing medical cannabis to patients suffering from cancer, sclerosis, neurodegenerative diseases or chronic and painful diseases. Pending the analysis of a two-year test period, it is expected that the medicines would be made available in all pharmacies in Luxembourg.

Doctor shortage & new MRIs

Schneider added that he planned to tackle the shortage of qualified doctors in Luxembourg, and pointed out that over half of current doctors were aged 50 or over and a fifth were of retirement age. He said the challenge was to create an innovative and attractive environment to attract talent. MPs supported efforts to establish medical studies courses at the University of Luxembourg.

Schneider said another priority was the establishment of medical practices which group together specialised doctors, to offer a better service to patients. He said a bonus of €10,000 would be offered doctors who become partners in medical practices. Schneider added that discussions were underway to ensure that these practices would be able to acquire specialised equipment, such as MRIs.

Meanwhile, the ministry has ordered another 4 MRI machines for hospitals in an attempt to reduce waiting time for patients who require a scan. Two machines, at the CHL and the Robert Schumann hospital, should be operational before the summer according to 100,7 radio.

Alcohol abuse was a key priority cited by Schneider. He proposed a ban on the sale of alcohol to minors and restrictions on the sale of alcohol in petrol stations. The two points would form part of the new national alcohol plan.

A paperless service

Ongoing efforts to digitalise healthcare in Luxembourg will take a great leap in 2019 when the government tables an e-prescription bill. This would be an electronic document exchanged between doctors and pharmacists, removing the need for paper prescriptions. The bill is expected to be presented to a parliamentary committee before the end of 2019, said Schneider.