NHS to launch review as British families forced to pay £40k for medical cannabis prescriptions

  • Government drug task force APPG has put 22 families to speak to the NHS
  • Patients must pay up to £40,000 per year to get a private prescription for medical cannabis
  • No prescriptions have been given on the NHS for medical cannabis

Twenty-two UK families who have been forced to pay £10,000s for private prescriptions for medical cannabis will be part of a NHS review into the prescribing of medical cannabis.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Medical Cannabis under Prescription has put forward the 22 families, who pay up to £40,000 a year for their cannabis prescriptions, to speak with NHS England as part of its “rapid processes evaluation” of the prescription of medical cannabis on the NHS.

Despite cannabis being legalised for medicinal use on 1 November 2018, the APPG claim there has yet to be a single NHS prescription of the drug. If British patients want legal access to medical cannabis they are being forced to go private.

Speaking to The Pharmaceutical Journal, Millie Hinton, secretariat for the APPG, explained how the families were forced to go private for their prescriptions after their NHS clinicians declined to prescribe them medical cannabis.

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, revealed that on the 8th April 2019, he requested the NHS to “address barriers” in the prescription of medical cannabis by instigating an evaluation of their prescribing process.

We’re hoping this review helps with the understanding exactly what, in all these instances, is stopping clinicians prescribing [medical cannabis]…”
 Seema Kennedy MP, Pharmacy Minister

A parliamentary answer from Pharmacy Minister, Seema Kennedy MP, explained that the review into the prescription process will be “clinically led by the NHS […] drawing on further specialist support as require.” The process will also involve interviews with those directly involved in the prescribing process, including patients, carers and relevant trust staff.

Kennedy added that the APPG asked NHS England to provide an interim report, based on the evaluation to Hancock, “by then end of May 2019.”

Hinton said the end of May deadline was “optimistic”.

She added that many of the families put forward to speak with NHS England have children with severe intractable epilepsy and some have resorted to importing cannabis-based products from abroad through private prescriptions “at the cost of about £40,000 a year”.

Ben Griffiths, 10, diagnosed with drug-resistant epilepsy, suffered up to 100 seizures a day before starting medical cannabis treatment. Now, after using medical cannabis, he only sees 10 seizures a day.

Despite the obvious benefits of medical cannabis for the child, NHS clinicians are refusing to provide the young boy with the medicine. His family must pay £2,000 a month to make sure his seizures do not rise again.    

Kennedy added “We’re hoping this review helps with the understanding exactly what, in all these instances, is stopping clinicians prescribing if you’ve got the evidence in front of you like that,” but was reserved about the process as NHS England “have been fairly vague in what the review looks like”, which she said has been “disappointing”.

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