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Hancock calls for NHS to ‘rapidly’ assess barriers to medical cannabis prescribing

The Government has asked NHS England to ‘rapidly’ assess the barriers to medical cannabis prescribing.  

Specialist doctors have been able to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients whose clinical needs cannot be met by licensed products since 1 November.

The change in law – which saw cannabis-derived medicinal products being rescheduled as schedule 2 drugs – followed a review that found evidence that medical cannabis has therapeutic benefits.

Speaking in the House of Commons last week, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said he has asked NHS England to ‘rapidly to initiate a process evaluation to address barriers to clinically appropriate prescribing’, given the number of patients that have been unable to access medicinal cannabis. 

Experts previously told Health and Social Care Committee members that patients have struggled to access the drug, mainly because doctors ‘do not understand the nature of cannabis’. 

Mr Hancock said the Government is ‘working hard to get the right approach but added that prescribing cannabis-based medicines ‘must remain a clinical decision to be made with the patients and their families, taking into account the best available international clinical evidence and the circumstances of each individual patient’.

He said: ‘To date, research has centred on two major cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. There is evidence that CBD may be beneficial in the treatment of intractable epilepsy, and over 80 children have already been supplied with CBD products in the UK on the basis of a specialist doctor’s prescription. I entirely understand how important this issue is to patients and I have met and listened to families. I know just how frustrated they are. Therefore, after meeting parents, I have taken the following actions.

‘First, I have asked NHS England rapidly to initiate a process evaluation to address barriers to clinically appropriate prescribing. Secondly, to improve the evidence base and to get medicinal cannabis to patients in need, I have asked the National Institute for Health Research and the industry to take action to produce that evidence in a form that will support decisions about public funding.’

Last year, Pulse reported that the Home Office instructed a GP to stop prescribing cannabis oil to a 12-year-old boy despite being effective against his severe and uncontrollable epilepsy.

Meanwhile, a Pulse survey revealed that GPs had seen a significant increase in the number of patients requesting medicinal cannabis.


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