France extends medical cannabis trial for a year

The trial of medical cannabis in France has been extended until March 2024, the government has announced.

France extends medical cannabis trial for a year
A medical cannabis trial has been extended for a year in France. (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

The limited trial of cannabis for therapeutic use for patients with serious diseases had been due to end this month, having been authorised in France in October 2020. But the scheme has been extended until March 24th, 2024 as part of the government’s flagship Social Security law.

Orders published in the Journal Officiel specify the terms of participation for doctors and pharmacists in the experiment, as well as conditions of prior training and remuneration, specifications of cannabis-based medicines that can be used, and the conditions of their availability as well as the therapeutic indications or clinical situations in which they will be used.

READ ALSO The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

Under the trial rules, medical cannabis’s use is limited prescription treatment for neuropathic pain, some drug-resistant forms of epilepsy, certain stubborn oncology symptoms related to cancer or cancer treatment, palliative situations and pathologies of the central nervous system including multiple sclerosis.

Recreational use of cannabis remains illegal in France, although the country has one of the highest rates of recreational cannabis use in Europe.

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French doctors call for strike on Friday

Some doctor's offices in France may be closed on Friday, as 'généraliste' doctors plan to walk out in protest of a proposed law that they feel will make their field less attractive to new candidates.

French doctors call for strike on Friday

Many primary care doctors/GPs in France plan to stage walkouts in response to a proposed bill aimed at combating medical deserts.

The bill is to be debated on Monday, June 12th. 

Brought forward by Frédéric Valletoux, of the centre-right Horizons Party, the bill would change the current medical system so that primary care doctors are required to take on-call hours. Currently, this is done on a voluntary basis – obligatory on-call hours for GPs was scrapped in the early 2000s after mobilisation against the requirement.

It would also make it so that entry level doctors would not be able to take on locum work, and strengthen the regulatory role of regional health agencies (ARS).

In response to the bill, “Doctors for Tomorrow” an association representing healthcare professionals and general practitioners referred to the contents of the bill as a “final blow to primary care medicine”.

Specifically, the association denounced the text for not taking into consideration “the real needs of healthcare professionals”. 

The French Union for Liberal Medicine, which also represents GPs, has joined in calls for strike action, adding, according to Le Parisien, that the bill could “permanently destabilise the general practitioner healthcare system, by causing a drop in GPs setting up their practices”.

Hospital doctors in France are not permitted to strike, but medecins généralistes are self-employed and therefore can strik

For several months at the end of 2022 and start of 2023, GPs mobilised to increase government investment in making the field more attractive, which included pushback against making on-call hours mandatory. In December, walkouts by primary care physicians led saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

France currently has a shortage of GPs and it is estimated that about 30.2 percent of the French population lives in a medical desert – a geographical zone where healthcare providers and general practitioners are severely lacking compared to the rest of the country. 

For GPs, a large part of the problem has to do with the appeal of their field – particularly in regard to pay and the heavy administrative burden placed on them. 

In April, France’s ministry of health said they would increase the rates for medical appointments, but instead of raising consult fees by €5, as unions had pushed for, the increase announced was €1.50. 

In response, unions, such as the Confederation of French Medical Unions, called the rate increase ‘humiliating’, according to Le Parisien.