This week (1st-7th November) is Medical Cannabis Awareness Week 2021, coinciding with the three year anniversary of medical cannabis legalisation in the UK. For many, this move introduced hope as doctors were technically able to prescribe cannabis-based medicines for the first time since 1971.
The rescheduling of cannabis meant that the plant could be prescribed by specialist doctors, both within the NHS and private clinics. Technically, this change meant that any GMC-certified doctor can prescribe cannabis for any condition where there is reasonable evidence of its efficacy. In reality, however, things turned out quite differently.
Three years on, it is revealed that only three patients have received a prescription for medical cannabis since the law change. Other prescriptions have been processed through private clinics, leaving patients to pay significant amounts for their medication.
Medical Cannabis Awareness Week 2021 aims to highlight the continuous need for real-world evidence and the removal of red tape to evolve access to cannabis-based medicines to patients in the UK.
Access to medical cannabis has remained largely restricted by guidelines from bodies such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). According to the most recent NICE guidelines, medical cannabis products should only be considered for a small number of conditions, and even then, only when various other treatments have been ruled out.
Medical Cannabis Awareness Week 2020, an initiative of the campaign group Patient-Led Engagement for Access (PLEA), brings together patients, doctors, organisations, and advocates to “pledge their commitment to education, awareness, and support for fair access to medical cannabis.”
PLEA is encouraging everyone, whether a patient, doctor or simply a member of the public, to help by “sharing patient stories and taking part in webinars and education, to simply asking people to care about cannabis”. There are many ways to support and help raise awareness for medical cannabis access all year round.
Throughout the week, patients from across the UK will be sharing their experiences and the impact that medical cannabis has had on their lives and diagnoses.
In addition, a number of organisations and individuals will be holding online events from virtual tours of a cannabis growing facility to speeches and conversations from medical cannabis patients and doctors. PLEA is also calling on individuals to talk to their friends and family about the potential benefits of improved access to medical cannabis in addition to writing to their MPs.
Visit PLEA’s website for more information on how you can get involved in progressing patient access to medical cannabis in the UK.