Carola Pérez: ‘All European patients deserve the same treatment’
For patient Carola Pérez, it is contradictory. She as a Spanish citizen has no access to medicinal cannabis, while a German, Italian or Dutch patient does. “All European citizens deserve the same treatment, and we all deserve to be treated equally.”
Recently, Pérez, founder of the Dosemociones patient organisation, made a plea for European harmonisation during the digital conference Towards a European Approach on Medicinal Cannabis. “How is it possible that an Italian fibromyalgia patient can get the treatment that I can’t have as a Spanish citizen?”
She spoke with other patient organisations at an online meeting of European parliamentarians, organisations and policymakers from the European Commission, organised by Medicinal Cannabis Europe. “The European Union has to take control. All European citizens have the same rights and the same obligations, and we all need the same support”, she stated.
Carola Pérez has suffered from severe pains since she was eleven after breaking her coxes bone while skating. After more than ten back surgeries, she still has to spend fifteen hours a day laid down on her belly every day.
Among other things, she is the founder of the Spanish patient association Dosemociones, where she advises and supports other patients who want to use cannabis for medicinal purposes.
As president of the Spanish Medicinal Cannabis Observatory and in her work as patient council coordinator for the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM) she is committed to the regulation of therapeutic cannabis in Spain and abroad.
Carola is a home grower because she has no access to medicinal cannabis products in her country. According to her, the black market and social clubs do not always offer a reliable alternative. But caring for her plants worries her. Every two years, she undergoes an operation that prevents her from taking care of her plants for a long time: “Patients shouldn’t have to make their own medicines. We are entitled to safe and reliable products, just as any standard medication.”
European rules should be equalised today rather than tomorrow. But unfortunately, it is not that simple. Medicinal cannabis and its derivatives have not been officially registered as medicines yet. They are made available in some countries under special access schemes. Maja Léon Grzymkowska is a policymaker at the European Commission department dealing with food safety and public health (DG SANTE). “I understand the difficulties for patients. But unfortunately, the basic principle is that any medicine must first be authorised to be placed on the EU market. The legal framework requires product developers to submit an application for marketing authorisation. With reliable and complete data to support quality, safety and efficacy.”
In addition, according to Grzymkowska, the term medicinal cannabis is not well defined from a regulatory point of view. During the digital conference, she stated: “It is a category of products and not specific enough for pharma legislation. The first step would be to agree on a common definition. Based on this terminology we can gather data to support marketing authorisation claims.” Grzymkowska also sees opportunities, namely, to better tailor research projects to the needs of the patient.
One of the members of the European Parliament, who is committed to improving EU regulation is Frédérique Ries. She also spoke during the webinar: “More MEPS really want to move this forward. It is terrible for us as policymakers to hear that patients do not have access. Of course, they deserve the same rights. We need a single European approach on medicinal cannabis, and that starts with a unique definition of the correct terminology. It is not well defined yet, and it must be. Patients’ rights should be equal throughout Europe, and they should be able to take their treatment with them when they travel.”