The German federal government admitted that it doesn’t know how much medical cannabis was sold in the country in 2019.
The government also cannot estimate demand for 2020.
Lack of accurate official information can make it harder for businesses trying to plan their strategies in Europe’s most important medical marijuana market.
It also can lead to inaccurate market estimates and forecasts that create confusion among investors and industry players.
The government’s disclosures came in a reply to a parliamentary inquiry from Wieland Schinnenburg and other members of the opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP).
The government has data only on reimbursements made by statutory health insurers. But it lacks information for so-called private prescriptions, which represent a significant but unknown portion of the market.
The answer to the official query also stated that the country will most likely continue to rely on imports, and federal authorities are not currently considering an increase to the quantities of domestically produced cannabis, nor initiating a new application process.
The government also does not plan to export medical cannabis from Germany.
In a statement to Marijuana Business Daily, Schinnenburg said the government should be doing more to ease supply imbalances.
“For many people, therapy with medical cannabis shows good results. Nevertheless, the German government is doing little to secure the supply of medical cannabis in Germany,” he said in response to the government’s answer.
“Despite a dramatic increase in demand, Germany continues to rely on imports,” Schinnenburg added.
A call for more German production
Schinnenburg wants the federal government to vastly increase the production volumes for medical cannabis.
“To meet the growing demand and make medical cannabis ‘Made in Germany’ an export hit,” Schinnenburg told MJBizDaily he wants the government to increase the production quota from the current 2.6 tons per year to 50 tons.
The government confirmed in its reply previously known data such as:
- The total contracted quantity of cannabis flower with domestic producers is 2,600 kilograms (5,732 pounds) per year.
- The growers are expected to deliver the first harvest during the final quarter of 2020.
Also in its reply, the government said the price it will pay domestic producers will vary per contract.
Canadian companies Aurora Cannabis and Aphria have five lots apiece, and Germany’s Demecan has three.
However, in a previous reply, at the end of 2019, the government said the average price it will pay to producers will be 2.3 euros per gram ($2.56).
Currently, Germany only imports medical cannabis.
In its reply, the government confirmed that flower is currently being imported only from the Netherlands, Canada and Portugal.
Cannabis extracts are being imported from Canada, Sativex is brought in from the United Kingdom, and Canemes is produced in Austria and Germany for use in Germany.
Data blind spot
The government cannot say for certain how much cannabis was sold in 2019 because of the two ways patients buy medical marijuana products in Germany
- With a prescription covered by statutory health insurance.
- With privately funded prescriptions.
The government replied to the question about the market size with the already known statutory health insurance reimbursement data but said it does not know how much is sold in the parallel system that allows for prescriptions to be purchased via private prescriptions.
About 90% of the German population has statutory health insurance. The other 10% can buy cannabis only with a private prescription.
But there are patients with statutory health insurance that still pay for cannabis out of pocket.
That’s because in Germany, reimbursements for medical cannabis work differently than those for finished registered medicines.
If patients want medical cannabis to be covered by their statutory health insurers, they need to apply for reimbursement for all cannabis products other than Sativex and Canemes when prescribed for their approved, or on-label, use.
In its reply, the government did not state how many applications for reimbursement were approved or rejected in 2019.
In lieu of official figures from the German government, MJBizDaily has used other data sources, estimating that about one-third of the applications for reimbursement of cannabis products are generally rejected.
When statutory health insurers reject medical cannabis applications, patients can still get access if a doctor issues a private prescription, for which the patients much pay out of pocket.
How many patients do this and how much they buy is unknown.
Also unknown is the number of patients who, despite having statutory health insurance, never apply for reimbursement – because, for example, the condition isn’t serious enough – and directly buy cannabis with a private prescription.
Another way of estimating the total German market is using the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) total imports data.
However, this data is also far from perfect because it includes only flower, and some of it could’ve been re-exported to other countries.
Alfredo Pascual can be reached at [email protected]