Laws surrounding medical cannabis have begun to change, following the success of those few who are fortunate enough to have a medical cannabis prescription. With a rising interest in the potential of the plant and its ability to treat a range of health conditions, the medical world is beginning to take more action.
However, recent changes to UK legislation surrounding Brexit have caused much uncertainty about the future of medical cannabis in the UK and across Europe. Many families who rely on medical cannabis imports from EU countries such as the Netherlands, are seeing their prescriptions come to an end as import laws have changed.
What are we to do now?
Changes in regulation
As previously discussed throughout our articles, the UK Government rescheduled cannabis-based products from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2. This meant the plant could be prescribed to patients in need, and made the drug more widely available for medical purposes.
However, only a small handful of medical cannabis prescriptions have been written. There is still a big reluctance in prescribing, as consultants do not have the knowledge or education to correctly and confidently prescribe and dose their patients.
The change in regulation has been positive, however much more needs to change. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence requires more evidence on the clinical benefits of medical cannabis. Due to the lack of clinical trials involving cannabis-based medicines, NICE have been reluctant to place medical cannabis products on the approved lists for the NHS.
Access to medical cannabis
In the UK, there are currently 40 known families who require medical cannabis products to treat their young children who live with serious health conditions. The use of medical cannabis for these children provides a lifeline; no other medicine has been effective in reducing their symptoms or providing a better way of life.
However, out of the 40 children who are in desperate need of medical cannabis; only 3-children have an NHS prescription. This causes the other families to purchase expensive cannabis oils and other medical cannabis products on a private prescription, which can cost hundreds - sometimes thousands - of pounds each month.
In December, the Department of Health and Social Care informed families receiving medical cannabis prescriptions should ‘find alternative medicines’ as the import of many cannabis-based products would be stopped due to Brexit.
Already, many children are coming to the end of their prescribed medical cannabis products. What happens now? The children will undoubtedly begin to suffer from increased seizures and stress, which could have a serious impact upon their health and wellbeing. Hannah Deacon - medical cannabis campaigner and mother of medical cannabis patient, Alfie Dingley - recently told The Guardian: “I am facing the fact that my son might go into refractory epileptic seizures again which can kill people. That’s how dangerous this is.
“So to say ‘oh you can swap it for another product, sorry we can’t help’ it is grossly unacceptable. It’s very very dangerous and I’m really frightened about what is going to happen.”
Changing the future
The Prime Minister and the rest of the UK Government are now facing pressure from the Secretary of State and many medical cannabis patients across the UK, for fairer access to the life-changing treatment. It is clear, the NHS needs to carry out a large review to find out why NHS prescriptions are so few and far between.
Whether it comes down to more access to medical cannabis education, regulations and standards from NICE and other health bodies, or simply a review of import legislations; UK families need answers and better access.
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