By Emily Ledger
The UK government has claimed that patients with medical cannabis prescriptions will gain faster access to their medication. Delays will be reduced as a result of an end to the current ban on bulk imports of medical cannabis products.
Companies in the UK will now be able to order more stocks of medical cannabis products from abroad. Previously, orders had to be made on a patient-by-patient basis, meaning many patients faced delays of months.
Crucially, companies will also be permitted to hold stocks for future prescriptions. This should improve waiting times for medical cannabis access to just days.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced:
“The changes made today are a tremendous step towards improving the supply of cannabis-based medicinal products … But we still have a long way to go.”
Campaigners welcomed the news but echoed the Health Secretary’s feeling that more still needs to be done. As clinical research and evidence around medical cannabis remain limited, the number of prescriptions for the products is expected to remain low.
The situation is further aggravated by a lack of specialist doctors in the UK. Cannabis research company Prohibition Partners claims that, out of the 180,000 doctors in the UK, only a handful have been educated in the endocannabinoid system.
Dr. Andy Yates, Pharmacy Lead at the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, applauded the decision.
He stated: “We are grateful that the government has listened to the valid concerns expressed by our members and responded with measures that will immediately improve access to these novel medicines and accelerate clinical understanding of their use.”
Medical Cannabis in the UK
Specialist doctors in the UK can prescribe medical cannabis products to patients who suffer from rare forms of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. However, recommendations published by NICE in November indicate that cannabis products may also be considered for other health conditions.
Despite calls for more research, only a small number of cannabis-based medications are licensed in the UK. These include Epidyolex, which has been shown to dramatically reduce seizures in treatment-resistant epilepsy; Sativex, used as a treatment for multiple sclerosis; and Nabilone, which can help with chemotherapy-induced nausea.