Countdown To Medical Cannabis Prescriptions In The UK

Medicinal cannabis in the UK
Image via UK Home Office

New laws in the UK will see medicinal cannabis being able to be prescribed to patients from November 1 – so in just 16 days from now.

The announcement was made by the UK Home Office last week.

While the types of conditions that can be treated by medical cannabis will not be limited and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, prescription powers will only be in the hands of specialists. GPs will be unable to prescribe initially, although this is expected to change over time. Approximately 80,000 specialists are on the General Medical Council’s register.

Under the new arrangements, cannabis can only be prescribed in a situation where there is an unmet special clinical need that cannot be addressed by licensed products. While cannabis products including flower will be available, smoking as a form of administration won’t be permitted, but vaping will be along with oral administration.

It’s a  great leap forward for UK patients who may benefit. The initiative was spearheaded by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who didn’t waste any time given just a few months has passed since his commitment to review the situation was made.

“Having been moved by heartbreaking cases involving sick children, it was important to me that we took swift action to help those who can benefit from medicinal cannabis,” said the Home Secretary. “We have now delivered on our promise and specialist doctors will have the option to prescribe these products where there is a real need.”

That promise was made back in June and was triggered by the plight of young epilepsy sufferer Billy Caldwell. Apparently Mr. Javid’s review of medicinal cannabis and UK law was opposed by PM Theresa May.

The Home Secretary remains adamant that the changes are not paving the way for recreational cannabis use.

The UK’s United Patients Alliance welcomed the news

“A year ago several hundred patients stood outside Parliament with signs asking to be taken seriously, now as patient advocates; we are being invited to contribute to what will eventually become policy,” said Carly Jayne Barton, Deputy Director of United Patients Alliance prior to the announcement. “For those patients who have been campaigning for this since the 1970’s, this is a long awaited win.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has been commissioned to develop detailed guidelines for clinicians, which will be in place in October 2019. Up until that point, interim guidelines will be used.