HSE approves cannabis-based medicine for epilepsy patients

Apporval means HSE will reimburse patients for cost of cannabis-based treatment for the first time

Ireland’s health service has agreed for the first time to reimburse a regulatory-approved cannabis-based medicine under the drugs payment scheme.

Epidyolex is used in treating certain forms of epilepsy and related conditions. It has been developed by GW Pharmaceuticals, a company that was acquired earlier this year by Irish-headquartered Jazz Pharmaceuticals in a $7.6 billion (€6.7 billion) cash and shares deal.

The company said the decision marks the first-time any plant-derived regulatory-approved cannabis-based medicine has been approved for reimbursement in Ireland.

Ireland also becomes the first country in Europe to approve Epidyolex for all three of its medical indications.


The approval means the HSE will pay for the use of Epidyolex as a supplementary therapy for the treatment of epileptic seizures associated with two forms of epilepsy – Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. It is also approved as an adjunctive treatment of seizures associated with Tuberous sclerosis complex, a rare condition that can lead to tumours – mostly benign – which can, in turn, cause epilepsy among other conditions.

The cannabidiol medication will be available to eligible patients in Ireland from January.

"The decision by the HSE to fund Epidyolex is an extremely important one for Irish patients and families," said Chris Tovey, chief operating officer and managing director, Europe & International, at Jazz Pharmaceuticals.

“This is further proof that cannabis-based medicines can successfully go through extensive randomised placebo-controlled trials and a rigorous NCPE [National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics] assessment to reach patients.”

Epilepsy Ireland chief executive Peter Murphy said his group had been advocating or the reimbursement of the medicine for some time

“Today’s announcement by the HSE marks a very important day for us and for the patients we represent,” he said.

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times