According to the Federal Association of German Pharmacist Associations (ABDA), the number of cannabis patients in Germany continued to increase in the last quarter of 2017. The ABDA points to a rapidly growing number of cannabis prescriptions submitted in the last few months. This increase in prescriptions has put a strain on an already bottlenecked supply of medical cannabis in Germany.
In 2017, a total of 44,000 units of flowers were purchased at the expense of Germany’s health insurance companies. After the second quarter of 2017, the pharmacies had received 4,615 prescriptions with more than 10,000 units of cannabis flowers sold, in the final quarter there were already 12,717 prescriptions with approximately 18,800 units.
“The trend has been increasing from quarter to quarter, both for prescriptions and for the dispensed units. The pharmacies still had 4,615 prescriptions with a good 10,000 units of cannabis flowers in the second quarter of 2017. In the last quarter, there were already 12,717 prescriptions with around 18,800 units of cannabis. Cannabis prescriptions are thus at least partially arrived in the daily routine,” said Andreas Kiefer, President of the Federal Pharmacist’s Chamber to the German Press Agency (DPA).
The total number of patients is slightly lower than this figure, as each strain must be issued with its own prescription and patients who need more than one strain often have to go to the pharmacy with two or three prescriptions.
An influx of insurance reimbursement requests
In January, the biggest insurers announced that they were also receiving more and more reimbursement requests. Germany’s three largest insurance companies, the AOK-Federal Association, the Techniker Krankenkasse and the Barmer, have received more than 15,700 applications since the law was introduced in March 2017 until the end of the year.
However, since many physicians are still inexperienced in treatment with cannabis, a considerable proportion of applications are flawed or incomplete and have been rejected. So far, about two-thirds of the applications submitted have been approved. At a price of $22.90 Euro/Gram ($25 USD), for most patients, a refusal of the application means the end of the legal therapy for financial reasons.
Some of the often criticized bottlenecks plaguing Germany’s patients have been at least partly addressed, but supply issues persist. Until the end of 2017 medical marijuana patients had to wait for weeks or even months for the flowers from the pharmacy. While a basic supply is almost guaranteed nowadays, most of the 30 strains that are currently offered cannot be delivered continuously. Since patient prescriptions include specific strains, when certain strains run out, these patients still experience delays.This is a particular issue for patients requiring CBD rich strains, who often must wait several weeks for their medicine.