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German insurers begin to take new tact on medical cannabis

There is clearly something afoot with German health insurers when it comes to medical cannabis this fall. Perhaps it is the change in political winds on a national level with pending draft legislation on adult use, which will ensure that cannabis is a part of the wellness, if not healthcare, discussion permanently. Perhaps it is that patients have refused to stop suing their health insurers or that doctors have not stopped prescribing.

Whatever the driver, there have been two interesting developments on the cannabis front in the past week from two of the largest statutory health insurers in Deutschland.

AOK enters a pilot program to make approvals easier
In a major development for German patients – initially, at least in the first trial area – AOK has agreed to cooperate with the German Society for Pain Medicine. The group is comprised of doctors who are pain specialists. Last week, the group announced in an online press conference that they are calling for the approvals process for medical cannabis to be simplified. To that end, they have entered into a contract with AOK in Rheinland/Hamburg to roll out a new kind of approvals process where doctors, not the insurer or regional approver, will have the deciding voice in whether a patient can obtain medical cannabis. This is a huge development and will be closely watched across the rest of the country.

Barmer issues a new cannabis specialty web presence
One of the other top three health insurers to approve cannabis claims (by number), Barmer, has also stepped into the discussion with an interesting new series of educational web pages about cannabis. It appears that it is an effort to educate patients about how to obtain the drug and goes to great lengths to describe cannabis as a medicine of last resort. Interestingly, they also quote data gathered by the Association of Cannabis Supplying Pharmacies (or VCA) to demonstrate what kinds of patients (and conditions) cannabis was being successfully prescribed for.

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