Daily Mail

Cannabis to be pre­scribed on NHS for medic­i­nal use

- By So­phie Bor­land Health Edi­tor

DOC­TORS will soon be al­lowed to pre­scribe medic­i­nal cannabis on the NHS af­ter the Home Sec­re­tary an­nounced the law would be re­laxed.

From the au­tumn, spe­cial­ist con­sul­tants will be able to treat pa­tients with cannabis- de­rived prod­ucts for con­di­tions in­clud­ing epilepsy and mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis.

Yes­ter­day’s an­nounce­ment by Sa­jid Javid came af­ter two boys with se­vere epilepsy were ini­tially re­fused med­i­ca­tion ear­lier this year. Billy Cald­well, 13, from County Ty­rone, North­ern Ire­land, had trav­elled to Canada with his mother Char­lotte to ob­tain a six-month sup­ply. But it was con­fis­cated upon their re­turn to Heathrow Air­port on June 11, and Billy be­came se­verely un­well.

Mr Javid in­ter­vened a week later and is­sued an ur­gent li­cence to en­able the il­le­gal cannabis oil to be re­turned to his mother. He sub­se­quently granted a li­cence for a sec­ond boy with se­vere epilepsy, Al­fie Din­g­ley, six, of Ke­nil­worth, War­wick­shire.

Yes­ter­day Mr Javid an­nounced that later in the year spe­cial­ist clin­i­cians will be able to rou­tinely pre­scribe these medicines and sim­i­lar prod­ucts. But he stressed the move was ‘in no way a first step’ to­wards the le­gal­i­sa­tion of cannabis for recre­ational use.

The Home Of­fice and the Depart­ment of Health and So­cial Care will now de­cide which prod­ucts will be pre­scribed for which con­di­tions. They will also de­ter­mine which doc­tors can pre­scribe the prod­ucts and whether it would be GPs or solely spe­cial­ist con­sul­tants.

Mr Javid said: ‘Re­cent cases in­volv­ing sick chil­dren made it clear to me that our po­si­tion on cannabis-re­lated medic­i­nal prod­ucts was not sat­is­fac­tory. That is why we launched a re­view and set up an ex­pert panel to ad­vise on li­cence ap­pli­ca­tions in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances.

‘Fol­low­ing ad­vice from two sets of in­de­pen­dent ad­vis­ers, I have taken the de­ci­sion to resched­ule cannabis- de­rived medic­i­nal prod­ucts – mean­ing they will be avail­able on pre­scrip­tion.

‘This will help pa­tients with an ex­cep­tional clin­i­cal need, but is in no way a first step to the le­gal­i­sa­tion of cannabis for recre­ational use.’

Writ­ing on Twit­ter later, he added: ‘Mak­ing medic­i­nal cannabis avail­able on pre­scrip­tion will ben­e­fit the lives of ill pa­tients cur­rently suf­fer­ing in si­lence. There is noth­ing harder than see­ing your loved ones in pain, which is why I have taken this de­ci­sion.’

Medic­i­nal cannabis is al­ready pre­scribed by doc­tors in Ger­many, Den­mark, the Nether­lands, Aus­tralia and Canada. It has been used to treat epilepsy, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis (MS), can­cer – to re­lieve nau­sea af­ter chemo­ther­apy – arthri­tis and epilepsy.

Genevieve Ed­wards, di­rec­tor of ex­ter­nal af­fairs at the MS So­ci­ety, said: ‘ This is ex­cep­tional news and we want to thank the Home Sec­re­tary for the speed at which this de­ci­sion has been made.

‘We started cam­paign­ing for cannabis for MS ex­actly a year ago, and it’s in­cred­i­ble to see how far we’ve come since then. The pri­or­ity now has to be mak­ing sure every­one who could ben­e­fit can ac­cess cannabis in a safe and re­spon­si­ble way.

‘We plan to work closely with the Gov­ern­ment to de­ter­mine what ex­actly this will mean for peo­ple with MS. This life-chang­ing de­ci­sion could help thou­sands with the con­di­tion who haven’t been able to find re­lief for their pain and mus­cle spasms.’

Donna Kin­nair, di­rec­tor of nurs­ing, pol­icy and prac­tice at the Royal Col­lege of Nurs­ing, said: ‘This is a very wel­come move by the Home Sec­re­tary. RCN mem­bers voted over­whelm­ingly at our an­nual congress in May to lobby the gov­ern­ments across the UK to de­crim­i­nalise cannabis for medic­i­nal use, be­cause nurses were wor­ried that vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients are cur­rently be­ing forced to self-med­i­cate or med­i­cate their chil­dren from sources that aren’t nec­es­sar­ily safe.’

Karen Gray, from Ed­in­burgh, who set up a pe­ti­tion for her five-year-old son Mur­ray to re­ceive medic­i­nal cannabis for his epilepsy, said: ‘I am de­lighted that the Gov­ern­ment is now ac­knowl­edg­ing that cannabis

‘Ben­e­fit the lives of pa­tients’

has medic­i­nal value. We still have a long way to go but this is cer­tainly progress.’

The an­nounce­ment fol­lows a re­view ear­lier this month by Pro­fes­sor Dame Sally Davies, the chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer, which con­cluded there was ‘con­clu­sive’ ev­i­dence that cannabis-based prod­ucts had ‘ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits’.

An­other re­port last week by the Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil On The Mis­use of Drugs rec­om­mended that cannabis-de­rived medic­i­nal prod­ucts should be down­graded from be­ing ‘sched­ule 1’ drugs to ‘sched­ule 2’. Sched­ule 1 drugs – as de­fined by the Mis­use of Drugs Act, 1971 – in­clude LSD and ec­stasy, which can­not be used as medicines. Sched­ule 2, on the other hand, in­clude mor­phine, other opi­ates and co­caine, which can be pre­scribed for cer­tain con­di­tions. The Depart­ment of Health and So­cial Care and the Medicines And Health prod­ucts Reg­u­la­tory Agency will now de­velop guide­lines of what con­sti­tutes a cannabis-de­rived medic­i­nal prod­uct.

The Home Of­fice and the Depart­ment of Health will also de­cide over the next few months ex­actly which doc­tors will be al­lowed to pre­scribe these prod­ucts.

In the mean­time, doc­tors want­ing to pre­scribe cannabis-based prod­ucts will be able to ap­ply to an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert panel that was set up last month.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK