The government voted through the trial on Friday October 25, as part of the 2020 social security proposals. It was put forward by MP Olivier Véran.
Medical safety agency ANSM (Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament et des Produits de Santé) has already approved the plans.
The trial means that patients deemed to be at a “treatment impasse”, who are not responding to existing treatment, could be eligible to be prescribed cannabis on a “therapeutic” basis.
It will also allow doctors to gather evidence of any possible side effects, and to review the risk of addiction, experts say.
Trial patients might be suffering from certain forms of treatment-resistant epilepsy, neuropathic pain that does not respond to other treatment, involuntary muscle spasms, and/or other nervous system conditions.
The drug may also be prescribed for people suffering from side effects of chemotherapy, or who are at a stage where they require palliative care only.
So far, however, the drug will not be prescribed in cigarette or “joint” form. It will either be inhaled or ingested, with delivery options including oils, dried flowers, capsules, drops or a drink.
Doctors will be able to join the trial on a voluntary basis, and they will receive extra training on the drug through an online course.
Catherine Simonin, spokesperson for patient advocacy union France Asso Santé and the vice-president of anti-cancer group la Ligue Contre le Cancer, told news source FranceInfo: “We are in favour of this test, on the condition that it is monitored by a medical team.
“It is not ethical to let patients who cannot be sedated or soothed by existing medicines to suffer. People for whom pain leaves them no quality of life.
“There are definite benefits [of cannabis] …for people whose pain is not helped by existing medicines. But we must identify all of the side effects, including those that may be serious. There is also the risk of addiction, and we must be sure that there is no lessening of its impact, and that there are no risks for certain organs.”