- Five years since the legalisation of medical cannabis in the UK, less than five prescriptions for unlicensed cannabis medicines have been dispensed through the NHS.
- Over 140,000 prescriptions for unlicensed products have been issued privately, indicating around 30,000 people are believed to be currently undergoing treatment.
- The BBC documentary exposes the harsh reality of patients having to fund their own treatment or resorting to the illegal market.
- Healthcare professionals argue that the government’s decision to legalise medical cannabis was misleading and has put doctors in a difficult position due to a lack of robust regulations and support infrastructure.
- Some question whether consultants rather than GPs should have the exclusive license to prescribe, with authorities arguing that robust guidelines from NICE need to be in place before significant movement can be expected.
- BRITISH CANNABIS emphasises the need for influential platforms to drive discussions around patient rights and the accessibility of medical cannabis treatment within the NHS.
Five Transformative Years
Five transformative years have whizzed by since the landmark legalisation of medical cannabis in the UK. However, according to a groundbreaking BBC documentary, the truth behind its accessibility on The National Health Service (NHS) could be grossly misleading.
As November 1, 2023, marks the five-year anniversary of the legal availability of medical cannabis on prescription in the UK, the stark reality is that less than five prescriptions for unlicensed cannabis medicines have been dispensed through the NHS, according to data obtained via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Cannabis Health in August 2023.
Astonishingly, the same data revealed that between November 2018 and November 2022, over 140,000 prescriptions for unlicensed products have been issued privately – a figure that indicates around 30,000 people are believed to be currently undergoing treatment.
Desperate Patients Turn to Private, Illegal Routes Amid NHS Stalling
The revelatory BBC documentary, released on iPlayer on September 13, exposes the harsh truth. Though a meagre few patients have gotten a pass, millions face the grim choice of funding their own treatment or tumbling into the risky rabbit hole of the illegal market.
Featured in the documentary is Alfie Dingley, the first child in the UK approved for the whole-plant cannabis treatment by the NHS in 2018. His mother, Hannah Deacon, heartbreakingly recounts her fight for Alfie’s prescription and how his journey paved the way for more people to hope for the same victory. Three seizure-free years later, this seems a far-fetched dream for many who face roadblocks at every turn.
Patients or Hunger Games Contestants?
Adding another layer of complexity, the documentary also shares the stories of patients compelled to go the private route but find themselves playing a dangerous game when it comes to managing financials. From breast cancer survivor, Amanda Lowe, who deals with a heartbreaking decision between medication and meals, to Tourette’s patient Conor Ryder, burning his savings month after month, the struggle rings alarmingly true across the board.
‘Misleading Government Claim’ Leaves Health Professionals Struggling
Adding further gravity to the issue is expert opinion. Leading healthcare professionals called out to the BBC proclaiming that the government’s decision to legalise medical cannabis was misleading and landed doctors in troubling waters. The lack of accompaniment in the form of robust regulations and support infrastructure impedes doctors tremendously when it comes to prescribing medication.
Highlighting concerns about the private industry and the absence of clear evidence of the safety and efficacy of available products, Dr David McCormick, a pediatric consultant at King’s College London, painted a rather gloomy picture of cannabis-based medical products in the NHS.
Curtailing Medical Cannabis Access- A Scandalous Act?
At the root of it all, some question whether consultants rather than general practitioners (GPs) should be the exclusive license to prescribe. Authorities argue that until robust guidelines from NICE are in place and pharma companies receive the green light post-trials, no significant movement can be expected.
Founder of Drug Science and former scientific advisor on drugs to the government, Professor David Nutt, labels the current predicament as ‘outrageous’, calling into focus the scandalous lack of progress in the NHS.
Discover the full story today by streaming the potent BBC documentary on iPlayer.
What BRITISH CANNABIS™ has to say
In response to the impactful BBC documentary, BRITISH CANNABIS™ reminds us of the importance of leveraging influential platforms to drive critical discussions around patient rights and the accessibility of medical cannabis treatment within the NHS. Close attention needs to be paid to providing accurate information, establishing robust regulations and ensuring overall patient well-being in the face of this emerging medical marvel.