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.’