Cannabis oil avail­able on pre­scrip­tion within a month

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front Page - By Tony Diver Laura Don­nelly

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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.

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