Specialist clinicians will be able to legally prescribe cannabis-derived medicinal products to patients with an ‘exceptional clinical need’ by the autumn, home secretary Sajid Javid announced today.
The Department for Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have now been tasked with developing a clear definition of what constitutes a cannabis-derived medicinal product.
Products that meet this definition will be placed under the Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, and so can be legally prescribed, although additional guidelines will be created to make sure they are not traded illicitly.
This decision follows a Government review commissioned last month into the prescribing of cannabis oil for medical purposes in the UK, after the Home Office told a GP to stop prescribing cannabis to a 12-year-old boy with severe uncontrollable epilepsy.
Until the guidance is completed, clinicians have been asked to apply as normal to the independent expert panel on behalf of patients wishing to access these products.
But the home secretary added that all licence fees for applications made to the panel will be waived.
The two part review which led to the decision, was carried out by the chief medical advisor Professor Dame Sally Davies and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
It concluded that there is evidence that medicinal cannabis has therapeutic benefits, and recommended that products meeting a clear definition of what constitutes a cannabis-derived medicinal product should be placed in Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.
Recommendations made by the ACMD will also be used by the DHSC and Home Office to develop additional frameworks and clinical guidelines to ensure that the agreed products are safely prescribed and cannot be traded illicitly.
Home secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory. That is why we launched a review and set up an expert panel to advise on licence applications in exceptional circumstances.
‘Following advice from two sets of independent advisers, I have taken the decision to reschedule cannabis-derived medicinal products – meaning they will be available on prescription.
‘This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need, but is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.’