File photo: A medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, Nov 3, 2017 Richard Vogel/AP

Israeli Pharmacies Set to Start Selling Medical Marijuana Early Next Year

Super-Pharm and other private chains are receiving the permits to sell it but HMO pharmacies are not interested

Israeli pharmacies nationwide are expected to supply medical marijuana to patients from early 2018, Health Ministry officials said on Wednesday.

The officials said numerous private pharmacies, including Super-Pharm chain pharmacies, have asked the ministry to sell prescription marijuana, and are in the process of being issued the required permits. The health maintenance organization (kupat holim) pharmacies have so far not shown an interest in taking part in the move.

Selling marijuana in pharmacies is part of the Health Ministry’s drive to revamp the process of medical marijuana distribution. Interested pharmacies are required to apply for a permit from the Health Ministry, commit to strict storage and security procedures and train pharmacists to distribute the products. The ministry will not restrict the number of pharmacies permitted to supply marijuana.

Currently the marijuana growers provide the plant, in the form of oil or flowering stems, to patients via a number of distribution depots or deliver it to their homes.

Super-Pharm executives met the ministry official in charge of medical marijuana more than a year ago to negotiate selling the drug in company pharmacies. As Israel’s largest pharmacy chain, Super-Pharm has outlets all over the country. However, it is not clear how many of the its branches will supply the drug.

The ministry’s move, which includes setting uniform standards for the drug’s components and use, is meant to make medical marijuana’s distribution as similar as possible to other medicines, although it is not an approved medication.

The pharmacies association has argued in the past that pharmacies are the right place to issue marijuana, like other narcotic drugs. The pharmacists see marijuana as a means to increase their income, estimating that in a few years some 100,000 permits for its distribution will be issued.

The Israeli Panaxia Pharmaceutical Industries is the first company to receive the Health Ministry’s Good Manufacturing Practice certificate, which allows it to sell medical marijuana to pharmacies. Other companies, including those that grow marijuana and are currently supplying it, are in various stages of receiving the certificate.

Currently Panaxia produces oils and flowering stems but plans on expanding the products to tablets and suppositories when the regularization process is completed.

The company says that the GMP certificate ensures the plant’s uniform composition, dosage and effect on the patient. It means medical marijuana will be available to a larger sector of the public, which has so far refrained from using it due to the red tape and complicated process of obtaining it. The drug’s consumption has so far been restricted to smoking.

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