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Tens Of Thousands Could Benefit From Stop-Gap To Address UK Medical Cannabis Impasse

MEDICINAL cannabis prescribing could be handed over to the UK’s private clinics in a move which would free up access for tens of thousands of patients.

Leading neurologist Prof Mike Barnes, Chair of the UK Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society.

With NHS specialists still unwilling to support patients pleading for access to cannabis medicine, an alternative route may solve the current impasse.

A precedent already exists in brain injury rehabilitation – a field of medicine, like cannabis, requiring acquired,  specialist knowledge.

This comes as a BusinessCann Freedom Of Interest request shows no more than a handful of patients currently receive cannabis medicine through the NHS – 18 months after the law changed. 

UK Cannabis Prescriptions Falling

Prescription numbers are, in fact, falling – down to 32 at the end of February this year, from 34 eight months ago. And, there is little chance of this changing for possibly five years, as reported earlier by BusinessCann.

Leading neurologist Prof Mike Barnes, Chair of the UK Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, is one of the country’s leading medicinal cannabis practitioners.

He told BusinessCann: “There is an increasing demand from patients who are well educated and knowledgeable about cannabis and want to try this medication.

“In my view, health trusts will get round this dilemma by referring to the private sector where there are already cannabis clinics established with trained and experienced cannabis physicians. The Medical Cannabis Clinics have received two enquiries from the NHS already.

“This is similar to the brain injury rehabilitation experience. Over 75% of brain injury rehabilitation in the UK is carried out by the private sector, paid for by the NHS. This saves the NHS from expensive set up and training costs. 

“I think this model will be adopted for cannabis prescriptions, at least in the short term before the NHS develops the courage to do the right thing and prescribe within the NHS clinics by NHS doctors.”

Ill-Thought, Unkind And Cruel

Peter Carroll, Director of End Our Pain, a medical cannabis advocacy group, is an experienced campaigner having, along with actress Joanna Lumley, led the bid to allow Gurkhas to settle in the UK.

… policy has been so ill-thought through, unkind and cruel, with such terrible consequences.

Peter Carroll, Director of End Our Pain

Mr Carroll told BusinessCann: “In all my time in politics I have never come across such a circumstance where there has been such a visionary change in the law, but the follow-on policy has been so ill-thought through, unkind and cruel, with such terrible consequences.

“I have no prescriptive way forward. We need to find a way forward for desperate patients and this suggestion would have my support.

“There is no light at the end of the tunnel for patients or their families; this tunnel is long and dark.”

Tens Of Thousands A Year

Access to medical cannabis was introduced in the UK in November 2018, and Prof Mike Barnes was one of the first prescribing clinicians.

He is also Clinical Director at the Medical Cannabis Clinics (MCC), which operates from two locations in London and Birmingham, and has plans to open a further five clinics by the end of the year. 

BusinessCann recently reported how there could be 20 clinics by the end of the year, with Sapphire Medical Clinics, MyAccess Clinics and Cannabis Access Clinics all active in the space.

The MCC currently has around 150 patients and a waiting list of around 1,000. Prof Barnes believes that within a year, with all of it surgeries open, it will have around 50 practising doctors – on a part-time basis – seeing around 250 patients week.

If the target of 20 clinics, all operating on similar metrics is achieved, there is no reason why they would not have the capacity to treat tens of thousands of patients a year.

BusinessCann asked the NHS for a response to this idea and received in response a link to the recent NICE report which restates prescribing should be carried out by a specialist medical practitioner – leaving the door open for such a potential move.

UK Cannabis Medicine Prices Falling

Pierre van Weperen, Chief Commercial Officer, Grow Biotech.

Pierre van Weperen, Chief Commercial Officer, Grow Pharma, which provides a range of cannabis medicines to UK patients, backs the proposal.

He told BusinessCann: “Anything that can help patient access, under medical supervision, has our support, and that includes private clinics stepping in to fill the gap left by the NHS.

“There is an increased interest in the benefit of these products from patients, and more and more specialists are practising and taking an interest in cannabis medicine.

“There are some major concerns amongst patients over the cost of cannabis medicine, and allowing them to access it through the private clinics, and paid for the by NHS, would help overcome these concerns.”

Cannabis medicine in the UK, on private prescription, has fallen in price over the last year as more companies enter the market, but, generally costs around £400 a month for a patient with pain and £1,000 a month for children needing cannabis medicine for epilepsy.

A recent report from the Centre For Medicinal Cannabis found 1.4m people in the UK were using illicit cannabis to help relieve medical conditions.

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