Infarmed, the Portuguese medicines and medical devices agency, has now set a reference retail price for medical cannabis patients in pharmacies that equals the black-market price – but still no word on whether health insurers will reimburse the costs.
Portuguese patients can look forward to a more regulated retail price for medical cannabis at pharmacies as of April this year. Infarmed, the Portuguese version of the FDA, has set the price for 15-gram bags of medical cannabis at the point of sale in pharmacies at €150 per bag of 18% THC flower. This means that retail prices for cannabis in pharmacies is now set at widely set black market rates across Europe.
This price point is also roughly equivalent to what insurers are reimbursing pharmacies for in Germany – which begins to create a regional, not just in-country reference price for the industry.
The next problem is, however, is that unlike Germany, the list of conditions the drug will be prescribed for is much narrower than in Deutschland (basically six conditions commonly seen in MS, cancer, AIDS and chronic pain). Further, there is no discussion (yet) as to whether national health will cover the cost (as is true in Germany, even if it is still a major bureaucratic, paper strewn fight). In Germany, those patients who are able to obtain coverage face a bill of €12 a month.
How Will This Help the Overall Legalization Discussion?
While the formal price setting is certainly a good step, and further one which takes real market conditions into consideration, a terrible price gap is still in the room for the most vulnerable of patients – in other words, precisely the people who are likely to get a prescription in the first place. Three hundred euros a month is about the amount of disposable cash a person on disability benefits gets to spend every month on food and other essentials. There is no way such people can afford the new “legal” channel of cannabis unless they get some kind of additional help.
Regardless of the immediate impact on the ground in Portugal however, this is a clear sign that the commercial medical market is in fact beginning to normalize – not only in country but across the region.
This also means that GMP producers, for example, can begin to have a much clearer idea of returns, costs and margin throughout the supply chain. This in turn will have a stabilizing impact on the industry – and allow investors to have a much better idea of potential returns.
As a result? 2021 and beyond should begin to see the kind of serious investment in the infrastructure of the industry that it actually needs. And that is good news for everyone.
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