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Specialists will be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis from November

Specialist doctors will be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis from next month, the Home Office has announced today.

Home secretary Sajid Javid has said that specialists - but not GPs - will be allowed to prescribe cannabis to patients whose clinical needs cannot be met by licensed products.

The new law, which is due to take effect from 1 November, will also not limit which conditions can be considered for treatment with cannabis with each patien's need assessed on a case-by-case basis.

This comes after the home office announced in July that cannabis-derived medical products could be legally prescribed by the autumn.

In a statement the Government said the specialists permitted to prescribe cannabis will focus on one field of medicine such as neurology or paediatrics and are listed on the General Medical Council’s specialist register.

It said: 'The decision to prescribe these unlicensed medicines must be made by a specialist doctor – not a GP.'

It added that they must make decisions on prescribing medicinal cannabis on a case-by-case basis, and only when the patient cannot be treated using other licensed products.

The Home Office has said that NHS England, the British Paediatric Neurology Association and the Royal College of Physicians will provide clinical advice to doctors before the law changes and NICE have been commissioned to produce detailed clinical guidance in the longer term. 

Mr Javid's announcement follows a review by chief medical advisor Professor Dame Sally Davies and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs over the summer into medicinal cannabis.

The review was commissioned after a GP in Northern Ireland was banned from prescribing cannabis oil to a boy with uncontrollable epilepsy and found evidence that medical cannabis had therapeutic benefits and recommended that clearly defined medicinal cannabis products should be added to Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

Mr Javid said: ‘Having been moved by heartbreaking cases involving sick children, it was important to me that we took swift action to help those who can benefit from medicinal cannabis.

‘We have now delivered on our promise and specialist doctors will have the option to prescribe these products where there is a real need.’

BMA GP Committee clinical and prescribing policy lead Dr Andrew Green commented: ‘We are pleased that the Government has made it clear that these products will not be prescribed by GPs, and a message needs to go out to publicise this.

‘Even before this announcement the rumour of regulatory change led to GPs having appointments wasted by people asking about its availability.’

Readers' comments (7)

  • I wonder who will be asked to refer patients to the specialist cannabis prescribing clinic.

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  • 19:00 national news (radio)
    " patients will be able to get cannabis products on prescription in just 3 weeks time"

    no mention of specialists!

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  • But GPs are Specialists too! Such blatant discrimination...….

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  • That is surely going to make our country worse and not to mention work load and appointments. The hospitals will suffer too as well as social care. Please see the link for the effects in Colorado.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_legalized_cannabis

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  • There's so much wrong with this decision, difficult to know where to start. Except within the confines of their particular practice, 'specialists' overall know less about medicine in general and less about other 'specialists' practice than do general practioners.

    Ask the dermatologist about medications or current protocols for heart failure or the cardiologist for targeted therapy with biologic agents.

    The old maxim that specialists know more and more about less and less until they know all about nothing has validity.

    They certainly have no insight, nor wish to have, into the actual lifes of patients.

    Still, since there is little known about the real, rather than anecdotal, therapeutic benefits of cannabis, maybe that 'nothing' will fit well with their practices.

    Whether cannabis should be prescribed at all, whether it should be decriminalised or legalised (as per Canada Oct. 2018) is the fundamental question.

    However that question is answered it should be on based on the BIo-Psycho-Social Model. If it is to be prescribable, it is the GP who works within that framework, not any of the anatomically / system based specialists.

    Until cannabis has been vetted in clinical trials as any other pharmaceutical / 'drug' and has been determined to efficacious and safe, it should not be a prescribable medication, by anyone.

    Finally, maybe there is something in the distorted thinking that only a 'specialist doctor' can prescribe unlicensed medicines, this on the base that they will not know anything about it anyway.

    Nothing could be clearer about the GMC's lowly view of General Practice as a 'decision must made only by a secialist doctor - not a GP'. Apparently supported by the BMA GP Committee's endorsement.

    If the 'Specialists' had any sense they would refuse to accept this politicised responsibility.

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  • doctordog.

    Specialists. Then shared care protocols. Then only us?
    I think not.

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  • Edoardo Cervoni

    "The old maxim that specialists know more and more about less and less until they know all about nothing has validity. ". I love it. Until we fail to acknowledge that the patient on one single medication and for one problem which is affecting only one organ (or part of it) does not exist - unless for a very limited amount of time when framed in a lifetime period - we shall continue to underestimate the importance of Primary Care figure advice and management. The good news is that, it seems to me, Medical Schools are doing their part in reinvigorating the appeal and role of General Practice.

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