• Only 80 patients have been prescribed CBD on the NHS since medical cannabis was legalised
  • Campaigners are “shocked and horrified” at lack of availability for desperate patients
  • The only CBD medication available on the NHS is Epidolex, produced by GW Pharmaceutical
  • Theresa May’s husband, Phillip, is GW’s majority shareholder

Despite medical cannabis being legalised in Britain on the 1st November 2018, only 80 patients have been granted an NHS prescription for CBD.

The issue of the lack of access to medical cannabis was discussed in Parliament yesterday during a health select committee meeting, with families of severely epileptic children attending, demanding to know why so few patients had been granted a prescription.

The families handed a petition with 578,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street, asking for a review into the guidance on prescribing medical cannabis.

Letter asking British Government for more access to medical cannabis

Letter written by Danielle Rowley MP urging the Secretary for Health and Social Care to address the current delays being faced by patients attempting to access medical cannabis

Organised by End our Pain, the petition said that despite medical cannabis being rescheduled, guidance issued by the British Paediatric Neurology Association (BPNA) and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) was “so restrictive that almost no one will get access to medical cannabis.”

Alette Addison, Head of Pharmacy and Regulation, highlighted that prescriptions from the NHS have been granted on the NHS telling the committee that:

“It is Epidiolex that is being made available… it has been made available to over 80 patients on the NHS already,” adding that a variety of medical cannabis products are currently going through the licensing system.

Epidolex, a nearly pure CBD cannabis oil containing no THC, is produced by GW Pharmaceuticals.

Peter Carroll, Head of End Our Pain, described the situation as a “shambles.”

British medical cannabis campaigners marching in London

Hundreds of medical cannabis campaigners marched on Westminster to demand easier access to medical cannabis for their severely ill children

Speaking to the committee, Carroll explained how despite medicinal cannabis being legalised, the situation for many desperate families had not changed:

“Families are just routinely told: ’We can’t do it. We’re not allowed to do it. We don’t want to do it.

“To be honest, I’m in a situation where I thought our job as campaigners and advocates was done on the first of November – time to move on.

“But I am shocked and horrified that we are in a situation where the law has changed but cases like Alfie Dingley would not qualify under the new guidance to get a prescription.”

Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer Sally Davies, told the committee that more research is needed before more medical cannabis prescriptions can be granted, claiming that randomised controlled trials must be carried in a bid to get it licensed.

“We do need the doctors to get used to the idea of prescribing cannabis,” she said. “But it will always – until we have a licence – be at their own risk as an unlicensed medicine.”

“The only way we can get it licensed is through doing randomised controlled trials.

“My belief is that we need to get on and do that as fast as we can… without that what we will do is just dish it out if the doctors will.”

We do need the doctors to get used to the idea of prescribing cannabis.
– Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer

There already exists a rich variety of clinical trials and research into the efficacy of cannabinoids in medical practice, particularly from Israel and the US where researchers have been unshackled from the chains of prohibition longer than their British counterparts.

Research has been limited in the UK due to cannabis formally being classified as a “Schedule I” drug (meaning the Government deemed it to have ‘no medicinal value’).

However, since cannabis was moved to Schedule II last November, clinical trials can begin in the UK, providing the framework for the country to catch-up with other Western nations in terms of medical advancement.

One of the main blocks for patients being prescribed medical cannabis in the UK is the distinct lack of training and knowledge our medical professionals have on cannabis.

Only specialist doctors are permitted to prescribe medical cannabis, and only a handful of those currently practice in the UK.

Many are terrified of prescribing a drug which they have no knowledge about. According to the Telegraph, some are even wrongly claiming that medical cannabis is still illegal, denying access due to ignorance.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “The government has changed the law and specialist doctors can now prescribe cannabis-based medical products where there is clinical evidence of benefit.

“To support these doctors we have asked NICE to develop new clinical guidelines and Health Education England to provide additional training while encouraging more national research to further improve the evidence base.”

Time, however, is running out for the severely ill children who need medical cannabis to end their unimaginable suffering, with some of the children of the End Our Pain families experiencing up to 300 life-threatening seizures a day.

Clinical trials take years, potentially making these children endure through their pain until Government officials get results of efficacy, results already proven by other countries’ clinical trials.

Should the Government not cooperate and collaborate with other countries, sharing evidence from research and working together to produce the best possible policies concerning medical cannabis? We believe so.

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