What many people in the United Kingdom have been waiting for has finally come. They can now legally avail of medical cannabis products upon prescription.
As of today, certain patients can get a legal prescription to use medical pot. However, not all doctors are qualified to hand out prescriptions.
Who are qualified to get a prescription?
Only specialist hospital doctors are allowed to prescribe cannabis to patients, and only under limited circumstances. More specifically, patients can only get prescriptions when:
1. other treatment options have been exhausted, and
2. there is clear published evidence of the benefit of cannabis for the relevant medical condition.
The limited number of circumstances or medical conditions include:
- Children suffering from rare and severe forms of epilepsy
- Adults with muscle stiffness due to multiple sclerosis
- Adults suffering from nausea or vomiting due to chemotherapy
Patients can get a referral to a specialist doctor from their general practitioner if they are not yet already in touch with one.
Which cannabis treatments are allowed?
Patients can access cannabis products made and regulated for medical use. In practice, these include cannabis in pill, oil, and capsule forms. Smoking cannabis won’t be allowed.
A result of the review
The Home Office’s decision to allow specialists to prescribe medical marijuana came as a result of a recent legislative review. This review was commissioned by Home Secretary Sajid Javid following the high profile cases of Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell.
Seven-year-old Alfie and 13-year-old Billy both suffer from severe epileptic seizures that can only be treated with medical cannabis. Unfortunately, their request to use cannabis oil had previously been denied due to the illegal status of the drug in the UK.
Last month, Javid announced that the Home Office will start handing out cannabis prescriptions on Nov. 1. The new regulations will apply to Wales, England, and Scotland.
Not the end
Javid said that setting out these new medical cannabis rules explicitly brings cannabis products into the existing medicinal framework. He also assured that these new rules are not an end in themselves.
According to him, the Home Office has commissioned the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to conduct a long-term review of marijuana. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence was also commissioned to advice clinicians by October 2019.
Javid said that they will closely monitor the new policy’s impact as evidence base develops. The government will also do a review when the ACMD submits its final advice.
Why many believe the new rules won’t make a difference
The General Medical Council’s specialist register has a list of doctors who are authorized to prescribe medical cannabis to qualified patients. Currently, there are around 80,000 specialists on this list.
Unfortunately, at the moment, NHS doctors possess very little guidance regarding how to prescribe cannabis. There are reports noting that many of these doctors have indicated that they won’t be handing out prescriptions. This is mainly because there is no larger infrastructure that will support them if, in case, something goes wrong.