The UK Government has made medical cannabis legal for the first time in the country for the treatment of patients with related clinical need.
With the change in the law, expert doctors in the UK will be able to legally issue prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines from 1 November this year.
The medicines will be prescribed when doctors agree that their patients could benefit from the treatment and they would no longer require approval from an expert panel for patients to access cannabis-based products.
The change was implemented after concerns were raised by parents of children suffering from conditions such as severe epilepsy.
To address the concern, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid called for an urgent review of cannabis-based medicines and accepted recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and the country’s Chief Medical Adviser.
Javid said: “Having been moved by heart-breaking 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.
“I’m grateful to the expert panel – who have been considering cases in the interim – and to those who’ve worked hard to bring about this change at the earliest possible opportunity.”
However, the decision to prescribe the cannabis-based medicines for treatment must be made by a specialist doctor who focuses on only one field of medicine and is listed on the General Medical Council’s specialist register.
The doctors can prescribe the medicinal products on a case-by-case basis and only for the patients who have an unmet special clinical need that cannot be met by licensed products.
With the implementation of the new law, the specialist doctors will receive clinical advice from NHS England, the British Paediatric Neurology Association and the Royal College of Physicians.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has been commissioned to provide detailed guidelines for clinicians in the longer term.