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.”

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