Cannabis products available for prescription within weeks, government announces

Cannabis products available for prescription within weeks, government announces

Cannabis health products will be made available for patients from 1 November, the home secretary has announced.

The government had previously said it planned to legalise treatments derived from the drug over the summer after young epilepsy sufferers Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell had struggled to access cannabis oil, which appeared to soothe their symptoms.

The new rules, which apply to England, Wales and Scotland, mean that specialist doctors can now prescribe cannabis treatments for any of their patients from next month. 

The change does not alter the legal status of possessing the drug for recreational use or supplying it to others, which remains a criminal offence. 

“This brings these products explicitly into the existing medicines framework,” Sajid Javid said, and added that further reforms were also being considered. 

“The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will be conducting a long-term review of cannabis and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has been commissioned to provide advice for clinicians by October next year.

“The government will monitor the impact of the policy closely as the evidence base develops and review when the ACMD provides its final advice.”

Alfie’s mother, Hannah Deacon, said in a statement: “Today is a momentous day for every patient and family with a suffering child who wish to access medicinal cannabis.

“We urge the medical world to get behind these reforms so they can help the tens of thousands of people who are in urgent need of help. I have personally seen how my son’s life has changed due to the medical cannabis he is now prescribed.

“As a family we were facing his death. Now we are facing his life, full of joy and hope, which is something I wish for each and every person in this country who could benefit from this medicine.”

An initial review by chief medical adviser Professor Dame Sally Davies concluded that there was evidence medicinal cannabis has therapeutic benefits.

The ACMD, which carried out the second part of the review, then said doctors should be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis provided products meet safety standards.

It recommended cannabis-derived medicinal products should be placed in Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

Cannabis has previously been classed as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is thought to have no therapeutic value but can be used for the purposes of research with a Home Office licence.

Mr Javid said that to constitute a cannabis-based product for medicinal use, three requirements must be satisfied.

These are that it “needs to be a preparation or product which contains cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol or a cannabinol derivative, [that] it is produced for medicinal use in humans and, is a medicinal product, or a substance or preparation for use as an ingredient of, or in the production of an ingredient of, a medicinal product”.

Additional reporting by PA

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