12 Oct Will I Be Able To Get Cannabis Prescribed On The NHS?

With the publication of new regulations yesterday, it is now clear how cannabis will be available on the NHS starting on 1st November 2018.

Only consultants will be able to prescribe cannabis and it will be entirely up to each consultant to make a decision about individual patients. The definition of cannabis-derived medicinal products is sufficently wide that both oils and herbal cannabis manufactured to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) standards will be available.

There is very little explanation included in the regulations but the intention is that prescribing guidance will be developed over time by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). The regulations prohibit smoking cannabis for medical use but if your consultant decides it is appropriate for you, they will be able to prescribe herbal cannabis for vaping. Apart from Sativex, all cannabis products are unlicensed medicines described as ‘specials’, so your consultant is supposed to consider licensed medicines first.

There are no restrictions on which conditions cannabis can be prescribed for. Again, it will be up to your consultant to decide.

So this is marvellous news. It is a fundamental breakthrough and its impact will be enormous but it will take time for it to start working effectively.

The law is no longer an obstacle. The biggest problem now is that very few consultants have any knowledge of cannabis at all and most are probably going to be very reluctant to prescribe. For the best part of a century, doctors, just like the rest of society, have been subject to a relentless flow of propaganda and false information about cannabis. Changing this with medical training, helpful prescribing guidelines and overcoming unjustified prejudice and fear are the new challenges we face.

To begin with, a lot of people will be disappointed because their consultant will be unwilling to prescribe. The first thing you can do about this is ask your GP to refer you to a different consultant but it may be some time before understanding develops and consultants are sufficiently informed. Almost certainly there will be more resistance to prescribing herbal cannabis and it will be easier to get oil.

As ever, the best thing to do is gather evidence on the use of cannabis for your condition(s). If you are well informed and prepared then you can help to educate your consultant. There is now an enormous amount of evidence available online. Just be careful to use proper scientific information and avoid the miracle cures and exaggeration that is still widespread.

Whilst not everyone will immediately be able to get the medicine they need, we are now on the correct path. Instead of politicians imposing their ignorant opinions on you, your doctor will now be making the decisions and that is the way it should be. In time the right to prescribe will be extended to GPs. For now the truly wonderful news is that we are no longer engaged in a battle with the law. What it’s about now is patience and education.

  • discerner

    Firstly I would like to congratulate all the various reform/campaign groups, individuals, parents, and other activist whose heartfelt voices have been listened to at last by a doubtful government. regarding medicinal cannabis.

    Whilst I welcome the change of attitude by the government, I still have some reservations concerning the matter. With regard to the medical training mentioned in the above article I have some suggestions to progress the matter – these are as follows:

    The current medical profession needs as soon as possible an urgent updating of the facts regarding medical cannabis. This could be achieved by including it the continual training/updates that presumably happen already.

    Medicinal cannabis as soon as possible should be included as a serious element of a medical students curriculum.

    GP’s in order to reduce the burden on consultants should as soon as possible be able to prescribe medical cannabis on the basis that their diagnosis is based upon evidential testing. Such testing is usually done by blood /urine test, scans, x-rays etc, This will help ensure the patient has a genuine condition treatable with cannabis. In some cases a consultants opinion will be of value.

    With regard to CBD only, it is classed in the UK as a food supplement and not a medicine. Whilst low strength CBD is suitable for minor ailments, the higher strength CBD which is suitable for more serious conditions is expensive to purchase at say over 50mg. So will CBD be reclassified and become available on prescription, especially for those that high strength CBD is effective enough for their health issue? And of course some people would prefer to avoid THC.

    I’m not entirely clear whether cannabis on prescription will definitely be on the NHS, or only offered as a private prescription? If it is to be available on the NHS then savings will be made to the NHS budget, in particular if Bedrocan gets the nod as the production cost Of Bedrocan will not be too high – it’s basically grown ,harvested and put in air tight tubs. It must be cheaper to prescribe compared to many pharmaceutical products.

    Finally medical cannabis is being recognised for what many of us knew for a long time: that it is effective for many ailments, is safer and more cost effective than most other alternatives. It is now a medicine of the future, one of the most generic medicines there is, and will become as acceptable to the public as other medicines are today.