Following an urgent review into the lack of U.K. medical cannabis prescriptions health chiefs have come up with some revised guidelines.
Some of these have been given a cautious welcome by campaigners, although concerns still exist as to how effective they will be in improving access through the National Health Service
In April Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered an urgent review into the lack of U.K. cannabis prescriptions amid concerns doctors ‘did not understand the nature of the cannabis plant’.
Just a handful of prescriptions
This followed a stream of newspaper headlines exposing how less than a handful of prescriptions had been made through the NHS since the law changed on November 1, last year.
The findings of this review: ‘Barriers to accessing cannabis-based products for medicinal use on NHS prescription’ which included interviews with people using cannabis for the health conditions, was published last week.
The recommendations include:
- Launching a new publicity campaign to inform patients of cannabis prescription guidelines
- The creation of specialist pediatric network to allow clinicians to share their expertise
- A series of Randomized Control Trials into epilepsy, whilst also considering the evidence of patients already using CBMPs (Cannabis Based Medical Products).
- Creating a patient database and make efforts to secure stocks of good quality, value for money CBMPs
- Good Recommendations On Improving Access
Hannah Deacon, Executive Director of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, told ITV News it makes some ‘good recommendations’ on improving access. But Ms Deacon, whose eight-year-old son Alfie Dingley receives a CBMP for epilepsy through the NHS, criticized a second Government-backed report by NICE, which was released on the same day.
Prof Ian Hamilton, a Lecturer in Mental Health, University of York, welcomed recognition that RCTs are not the only way forward. “The report makes clear that the policy change in November in effect raised expectations of patients but systems were not in place to meet these expectations,” mentioned Hamilton.
He continued, “Although the report recognizes that the cost of these products is a barrier to some patients and their health trusts there are no potential solutions offered to mitigate this concern.”
Chicken And Egg Situation
The lack of NHS prescriptions means many patients are faced to go to private practices for prescriptions and these can cost in the region of £1,000 a month. U.K medical cannabis expert Prof Mike Barnes says there is little incentive for the overseas medical cannabis companies to provide supplies to the U.K., as there is currently not the demand.
He told CBD Testers: “The drugs for the prescriptions I write now have to be imported from Canada, Australia and elsewhere, just for one person, so it’s slow and ridiculously expensive. The Government should be looking to agree deals with the seven GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) producers to bring bulk supplies in to the country.”
“But the downside is that clinicians are not prescribing their products and there is a shelf-life for some cannabis medication. It’s a chicken and egg situation; we need the doctors to prescribe so the supply chain can grow, but the former is not happening,” he added.