From November 1 specialist clinicians in the UK will be able to prescribe cannabis-derived medicinal products for the first time after a change in the law, the Home Office has confirmed.
The new law will not limit the types of conditions that can be considered for treatment and doctors will no longer need to seek approval from an expert panel in order for patients to access the medicines, it 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,” said home secretary Sajid Javid.
“We have now delivered on our promise and specialist doctors will have the option to prescribe these products where there is a real need.”
“This news will be welcomed by many patients with a range of serious health conditions. The prospect of a future where safe and effective licensed cannabis-based medicines can be prescribed to help relieve suffering is genuinely exciting,” added president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Ash Soni.
“Moving cannabis-based medicinal products from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 will now make it easier for research into these products to take place.”
Earlier this year, chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies concluded that there is evidence to show the therapeutic benefit of cannabis-based medicines for some conditions.
This was followed by a recommendation from The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs that cannabis-derived medicinal products “of the appropriate medicinal standard” should not be subjected to Schedule 1 requirements of the misuse of drugs regulations 2001.
Schedule 1 drugs by definition have little or no therapeutic potential, such as hallucinogenic drugs, raw opium and currently all forms of cannabis. While cannabis derived medicines could be moved down into Schedule 2, the ACMD did stress that raw cannabis of unknown composition should remain in its category.
NHS England, the British Paediatric Neurology Association and the Royal College of Physicians will provide clinical advice to doctors ahead of the law change. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has been commissioned to develop more detailed guidelines for clinicians in the longer term, the government said.