Cannabis oil available on prescription within a month
MEDICAL cannabis will be available on prescription in the UK within a month, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
The Home Office will announce the “rescheduling” of cannabis-derived medicines in Parliament, lifting restrictions that until now have meant it has been allowed only in the most exceptional circumstances.
Now those suffering chronic pain, severe epilepsy or nausea as a result of chemotherapy could be prescribed the drug by specialist doctors.
An announcement is expected in Parliament within a fortnight. It means Britain will be among the most liberal countries in Europe on medical cannabis, joining Germany, which gave it the green light last year.
There are an estimated 28million people with chronic pain in the UK, with conditions including arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS). The MS Society says 10,000 sufferers could benefit.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is due to review routine funding of treatment on the NHS and will issue its findings next year. Until then, decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
George Freeman, a former science minister, urged Britain to “lead the world in the enlightened regulation of modern medicine”. He suggested the changes could mean a “huge business opportunity” for Britain, which produces 60 per cent of the world’s cannabis for pharmaceutical research.
The rescheduling applies only to cannabis oil that contains THC, an active chemical which produces “highs” when used recreationally. Cannabis oil which does not contain THC can be purchased at high-street stores.
The move will see cannabis-derived medicinal products move out of Schedule 1, the strictest category for drugs with potential professional uses which
require a Home Office licence, and into Schedule 2.
Genevieve Edwards, from the MS Society, said: “This is very encouraging progress for thousands of people with MS who have been forced to choose between living with relentless pain and muscle spasm or breaking the law.”
A protracted campaign to make medicinal cannabis available to children with epilepsy had culminated in a stand-off between the Home Office and Charlotte Caldwell, mother of 13-yearold Billy, in June, when drugs prescribed for him in the United States were seized at Heathrow Airport.
The decision by Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, to allow legal prescription of medical cannabis by specialists follows a review by England’s chief medical officer earlier this year. The Prime Minister had long opposed relaxation of rules on marijuana.
Since the summer, families with the support of clinicians have been able to apply to a panel of medical experts for permission to use cannabis oil.
Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, both of whom have severe epilepsy, were granted permission, but many other parents have been denied.
After the rescheduling this autumn, users will no longer have to try many other opiate-based epileptic drugs before being allowed to use cannabis oil.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Ms Caldwell said that her son’s condition had improved dramatically.
“I feel absolutely, truly blessed from the bottom of my heart, that Billy has had access to this medicine,” she said.
Ms Caldwell and Paul Birch, a philanthropist who supported Billy’s campaign in June, will tomorrow launch the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis to lobby the government to widen access.