Medical Cannabis | May 2019

I have again received a substantial number of emails regarding medical cannabis.

I fully appreciate that there are people with chronic pain and debilitating illnesses who seek to alleviate their symptoms by using medicinal cannabis. However, the Government’s position regarding the issuing of medical cannabis is correct, as it ensures that medical cannabis is only prescribed if approved by a specialist doctor.
In November 2018, it was made possible for doctors on the specialist register of the General Medical Council legally to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use in the UK. The Government is clear that any prescription of cannabis-based medicines should be a clinical decision that is made by specialists after consultation with patients and their families, and only after taking into account the best available clinical evidence. I have been reassured that the Government is determined to do everything it can to ensure that patients can obtain cannabis-based medicines in the UK if it is medically appropriate.
During a Parliamentary debate on the issue that was held on 29 May 2019, the Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State for Health and Social Care reiterated that the Government’s position is to refine the status quo so that the demands of patients who want to take medicinal cannabis are considered, but only if such demands can be met with NHS funding. Due to the current lack of evidence on the success rate and cost-effectiveness of medicinal cannabis, the Government is engaging with parties of interest to best determine its future policy. Current evidence has been summarised by the professional bodies in their interim clinical guidance, and it will be further examined and reported on by NICE shortly.
Where there is supporting evidence, the Government and the NHS will work with companies to make cannabis-based products available. Currently, more than 110 patients are being treated with a pure Cannabidiol (CBD) extract product, Epidiolex, on an early access programme, despite a licensing decision yet to be made by the European Medicines Agency.
In developing a licensed product, the evidence will be generated on the safety profile and effectiveness of the product. It is this that provides clinicians with the confidence to prescribe and the systems required to make decisions on routine funding. It should be noted, however, that the NHS does not routinely fund any new medicine until it has been through a process of evaluation to ensure that it is safe, effective and represents value for money.
Equally, Sativex has already been licensed for use in the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis (MS) in Wales. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is open to considering other licensing applications for medicines containing cannabinoids, should such products be developed.
May 2019


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