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GPs should not feel pressured into prescribing cannabis, says chief medical officer

GPs should not feel pressured to prescribe cannabis despite the change in law allowing its prescription, England’s chief medical officer has said.

The reassurance comes after chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies published an open letter on the prescribing of cannabis-based products, which raised concern among GPs who questioned the mention of ‘exploring’ shared care arrangements, as some worried this could put pressure on them to prescribe the drug.

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

The CMO’s letter, published in October, said: ‘The regulations are drafted in such a way that cannabis-based products for medicinal use can be supplied under the prescription or direction of a specialist doctor.

‘We are exploring how this may work under shared care arrangements, however in the first instance we expect specialist prescribing only.’

In response to this, the BMA GP Committee wrote to the CMO to highlight GP concerns.

The CMO said: ‘The concerns of your colleagues around potential pressures on GPs to prescribe outside of their competence or contractual obligations are entirely valid ones. Healthcare professionals should never feel pressured to prescribe.

‘NHS England and I published a letter on cannabis-based products for medicinal use on the 31st of October which mentions that in the first instance we expect specialist prescribing only.’

Meanwhile, the RCGP published guidance for GPs on cannabis-based medicines this week, outlining the current legal situation, the different forms it is available in and the benefits and side effects of the medicines.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, said: ‘GPs will not be able to prescribe patients medicinal cannabis, but as the first point of contact for the vast majority of patients in the NHS it is important that we are aware of the legal situation and current clinical evidence around medicinal cannabis.’

The change in law allowing the legal prescribing of medicinal cannabis followed a review which found that the drug had therapeutic benefits and recommended that clearly defined medicinal cannabis products should be added to Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

This came after the Home Office told a GP to stop prescribing cannabis to a 12-year-old boy with severe uncontrollable epilepsy.


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