Prescription cannabis in UK: have the law and the drug become best buds?

Prescription cannabis in UK: has the law and the drug become best buds?
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The UK government has announced that patients can receive prescription cannabis by specialist doctors from 1 November 2018.

Health Europa previously reported upon the review of the scheduling of medical cannabis in the UK, however recently it has been announced by the Home Secretary that prescription cannabis can now be provided by specialist doctors.

An overview of the review

The review focused upon exceptional cases where there was a clinical need that was unmet. Having been reviewed by an expert panel of clinicians to proficiently advise ministers, it was vital that the administration of prescription cannabis was clinically led and firmly based upon medical evidence, therefore guaranteeing that patients and their families experience the most appropriate course of medical treatment.

Breaking down part one of the review

Part one of the review, already published, essentially highlighted how there was previous evidence of cannabis and its derivatives to be addictive and harmful, however this was not challenged by recent medicinal and scientific discoveries.

Nevertheless, now there is conclusive evidence of the therapeutic benefit of medical cannabis and cannabis-based products for specific medical conditions and legitimate evidence of the therapeutic benefit in several other medical conditions.

Due to the growing evidence of the beneficial aspects of medical cannabis, the medical advisors of the UK Government recommended that cannabis based medical products should be prescribed under strictly controlled conditions by registered practitioners for medical benefit.

Moreover, by consenting to the administration of prescription cannabis in the UK, researchers will be allowed to improve upon and further solidify the evidence base regarding the therapeutic benefits associated with using cannabis, therefore enhancing research, and maximising benefits to patients.

Prescription cannabis sparking a new wave

The second part of the review concluded that medical cannabis, will indeed, be prescribed by specialist doctors. Therefore, for the first time in the UK, expert doctors have been provided with the option of legally issuing prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines, but only when they agree that their patients could benefit from this treatment.

The law change, to be in effect on 1 Nov 2018, came after Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, listened to the concerned parents whose children are suffering with conditions such as severe epilepsy.

Prescription cannabis can only be agreed by a specialist doctor and not a GP. Such specialists’ doctors focus on one specific field of medicine, such as neurology or paediatrics. Moreover, they must make decisions on a case-by-case basis, and strictly when the particular patient has an unmet special clinical need that cannot be met by existing licensed products.

Not to be taken advantage of

However, the reports do not look at recreational cannabis use and most importantly does not endorse or condone the use of cannabis for recreational use.

There is well-established evidence on the potential harm of recreational cannabis use, and current legal changes are about helping patients, in exceptional circumstances, to receive treatment to better their health.


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