An Absolutely huge announcement today from the Home Office as they confirm they will reschedule “Cannabis Derived Products” to schedule 2 as advised by the ACMD earlier this month.
“It means that senior clinicians will be able to prescribe the medicines to patients with an exceptional clinical need.”
We should be incredibly pleased with this outcome. There was always a chance the government would do as it has previously and ignore the ACMD’s recommendations. We must praise Sajid Javid’s decision, which flies in the face of advice from certain Conservative MP’s including Theresa May herself. Javid said:
“Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory.
That is why we launched a review and set up an expert panel to advise on licence applications in exceptional circumstances.
Following advice from two sets of independent advisers, I have taken the decision to reschedule cannabis-derived medicinal products – meaning they will be available on prescription.
This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need, but is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.”
Alongside this announcement the HO declared that “All licence fees for applications made to the panel [set up to deal with urgent cases in the interim] will be waived”. which is alos a huge plus!
But what defines a “Cannabis Derived product” and will it be up to clinicians to decide what constitutes as “exceptional clinical need”? These are two of the biggest concerns for the estimated 1 million chronically and mentally ill individuals who benefit from consuming cannabis in the UK every day. It will be up to the MHRA and DHSC to work out the aforementioned definition and the UK government could still impose further restrictions to prescriptions much like those in Australia that state that patients can only access cannabis “if all traditional therapies have been exhausted”.
Many will be looking to other countries and US states for the companies and products that might be available. The statement issued today states that prescriptions might be available as soon as Autumn this year, far too short a time-frame for any new products to be developed. Those we expect to receive licences to import products to the UK are Canadian giants Tilray, Israel’s Tikun Olam, Bedrocan from The Netherlands and Columbia Care from NY state.
Maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves but you could forgive patients for finding these companies products on line and “browsing” to see which they might request from their doctors…
There are, however, still battles yet to win. The most immediate hurdle is the complete lack of education of our health professionals when it comes to prescribing and dispensing cannabis medicines. You can help educate them by taking part in our patient survey and by informing your doctor of the relevant studies to your condition or symptoms. You could also do a lot worse than pointing them in the direction of the Medical Evidence on our website.
We also have as yet unannounced events specifically designed to educate health professionals much like our recent masterclass with Rosemary Mazanet of Columbia Care.
Further campaigning will be needed to ensure decriminalisation (to ensure chronically ill people are not caught up in the criminal justice system) and of course the right for patients to grow their own medicine. Many will also critique the ACMD’s advice to place cannabis based medicines in schedule 2. Particularly whilst Sativex, undoubtedly a Cannabis Derived medicine, licensed separately in 2001, is in schedule 4i… Although this makes little difference to patients access we will be continuing to push for a more appropriate scheduling, such as 5, which would enable over the counter transactions.
We also recently launched our #nopatientleftbehind initiative that promises a continuation of our efforts until access is granted for all who stand to medicinally benefit from cannabis.
We always knew progress would be incremental. Be assured The UPA is not finished fighting until we have won the war on all fronts. Nevertheless, we are hugely proud to have been a part of the movement that has enabled us to tick off our first of our aims set out at our launch in 2014 to reschedule cannabis.
Please stay tuned for further announcements as and when we receive them.
On behalf of the UPA team