By Emily Ledger
London’s first Medicinal Cannabis clinic is set to open in Harley Street, next week. Sapphire Medical Clinic will also be the first clinic in the UK to offer the medication to youngsters, for whom no other medications work.
The medical cannabis clinic claim that they prescribe medicinal Cannabis for “all conditions acknowledged to benefit from it”. Consultations will be offered to families, and carried out “with an open mind”.
Medicinal Cannabis was legalised last year, following the rescheduling of the drug from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 2001. However, the Cannabis-based medication remains unlicensed, which means it can only be prescribed by specialists, or with the guidance of a specialist.
Currently, the only licensed Cannabis-based medicinal product (CBMP) in the UK is Sativex – a 50/50 mix of THC and CBD. Sativex is used as a treatment for adults with severe forms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
As a result, the number of prescriptions for the medication have remained extremely low. Most of these have been given from private clinics at high costs, and patients say that it is almost impossible to get a prescription on the NHS.
The rescheduling of Cannabis occurred following the high profile cases of Alfie Dingley, seven, and Billy Caldwell, 13, who were denied access to their medication. The two boys suffer from rare cases of Epilepsy, which were only effectively treated with Cannabis oils.
The only other UK Medical Cannabis clinic was opened in Greater Manchester in March 2019. The Medical Cannabis Clinics is planning to open in a second location in London this Summer, but doesn’t have plans to offer paediatric services from the time of opening.
Dr Michael Platt, pain specialist and Sapphire Clinics Doctor, said:
“As part of our portfolio of services we are prepared to offer evaluative consultations to families with children affected by intractable epilepsy for consideration of cannabis-based products for medicinal use.
“Our paediatric neurology service will offer consultations to the families of the children … with an open mind but would reserve the right not to prescribe medicinal cannabis containing THC.”
The Sapphire Medical Clinic states that it’s doctors will have “complete freedom to prescribe any range of medicinal Cannabis products from any available supplier.” However, the Clinic, and Dr Platt, say that they are aware of the stigma around THC (the psychoactive component in Cannabis), despite anecdotal evidence that it can advance treatment in some cases.
Cannabis prescriptions have reportedly cost patients up to £1,300 a month, through private clinics. The National Health Institute for Care and Excellence is due to publish a review in October 2019, outlining whether the NHS should to pay for CBMP prescriptions.
The Government claims that evidence of efficacy and economic efficiency of CBMPs is still very much in it’s infancy.
Managing Director of Sapphire, Dr Mikael Sodergren, said:
“Medicinal cannabis is a new and exciting field. But it is important that access to it is delivered in a way that fits in with other treatment options.”
Sapphire Clinic says the London clinic will be the first of a national network. The team at the clinic will include specialists in paediatric and adult neuropathic pain, palliative care, gastroenterology, acute general medicine and psychiatry. Consultations will cost £250, follow-up sessions £150.