Intended for healthcare professionals


Medical cannabis: no NHS patients have benefited from law change, say campaigners

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 15 February 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l753
  1. Richard Hurley
  1. BMJ

Very few UK patients have gained access to previously illegal cannabis based medicinal products since doctors were given permission to prescribe them in November 2018, and patients are complaining.

“The situation is appalling. Not one patient has benefited from a cannabis prescription on the NHS,” Mike Barnes, honorary professor of neurological rehabilitation at Newcastle University, told The BMJ. “The legislation has had no impact on the health of people who remain criminalised due to the lack of education of the medical community and overcautious guidelines produced by the Royal College of Physicians and the British Paediatric Neurology Association.”

Links to the guidelines were given in a letter to doctors from the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England in October last year.1

Campaigners say that the guidelines, together with doctors’ and NHS managers’ fear of and lack of training in prescribing cannabis products, are major barriers.

Guidance criticised

Since 1 November 2018 doctors have been able to legally prescribe unlicensed products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (box). But the British Paediatric Neurology Association’s guidelines recommend against prescribing any product containing this cannabinoid, rendering the law change meaningless if doctors follow the recommendation.

In an open letter the parents of 39 children with intractable epilepsy recently called for the association to …

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