UK patients forced to go private for medical cannabis

People with conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and epilepsy are being forced to seek private care to access medical cannabis in the UK.

The use of cannabis medicine was legalised almost a year ago but only a handful of prescriptions have been handed out by National Health Service doctors willing to prescribe marijuana products containing THC.

The impasse, according to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, is forcing some desperate patients to cough up £800 a month to seek private medical help.

One of the show’s guests – Cheryl Keen – explained how she had been trying to get treatment for her daughter on the NHS but had been refused twice. The youngster has brain damage and suffers epileptic convulsions.

Ms Keen had hoped the change of law over medical cannabis in November 2018 would have allowed her access to treatment for her daughter.

“Nothing has happened, nothing has changed,” she told the show.

“It’s absolutely disgusting that anyone is having to pay to go private.”

Solid evidence

Many doctors say their hands are tied until solid evidence is produced that can prove the medical benefits of cannabis before more GPs prescribe it as a treatment.

As reported recently by The Leaf Desk, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) underlined its position by saying it couldn’t recommend cannabis as an epilepsy treatment because of “a lack of clear evidence that these treatments provide any benefits”.

A Health and Social Care Committee report last month said the government had unfairly raised the hopes of patients and families when doctors were allowed to prescribe cannabis.

In turn, the Department of Health has called for more guidelines and extra training over the prescribing of unlicensed medicinal cannabis.

“To support doctors prescribing these products, we have asked the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence to develop additional clinical guidelines and are working with Health Education England to provide additional training,” the department said in a statement.

“The decision to prescribe unlicensed cannabis-based products for medicinal use is a clinical decision for specialist hospital doctors, made with patients and their families, taking into account clinical guidance.”