Pharmacists can now sell products with cannabidiol

Summary

The sudden lifting of a ban this week will allow pharmacists to make and sell products with CBD, one of the active ingredients in the cannabis plant

‘Extremely low doses of THC’

Pharmacists in Belgium can now make and sell products containing cannabidiol (CBD), one of the active ingredients in the cannabis plant. The Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products has stated that it is lifting the ban on pharmacies preparing and selling products with the ingredient.

The agency made the surprise announcement in a circular letter sent out on Tuesday. It is effective immediately, on a prescription basis only.

Kelly Vidts, brand manager of the Fagron pharmaceutical company, told De Standaard that apothecaries who order cannabidiol will be able to use it in different ways. “Pharmacists can use it to make an ointment, oil or pills,” she said.

Pharmacists have already been selling Sativex oral spray, which is prescribed to multiple sclerosis patients and which was made legal in Belgium in 2015. Pharmacists have been concerned, however, with the proliferation of shops specialised in selling CBD products over the counter, as customers have not necessarily consulted their doctor or pharmacist about using the products.

They have had to go to the Netherlands to get it, which is – strictly speaking – breaking the law

- Evy Reviers

Vidts said that although cannabidiol produces a relaxing effect, it will never produce a high. “Wat we are selling contains extremely low doses of THC, the illegal substance that is intoxicating and that can result in mental dependency,” she said.

The cannabidiol-based products will only be available on a doctor’s prescription. ALS, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy patients are thought to especially benefit from the cannabis-based drugs as it can relieve pain and spasms. 

Evy Reviers, CEO of the ALS League, told De Standaard that patients with ALS are in fact already being prescribed cannabis oil by their doctors. “They have had to go to the Netherlands to get this, and they are – strictly speaking – breaking the law.”

According to the ALS League’s own figures approximately 500 ALS patients use cannabis oil, or half of the total number of ALS patients in the country.