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Medical cannabis

House of Commons backs call for easier access to medical cannabis

The House of Commons has backed a motion calling on the government to ensure medical cannabis is made available to “appropriate patients”.

The motion was put forward by Mike Penning, Conservative Party MP for Hemel Hempstead, on 20 May 2019. He told the House that “only a handful of prescriptions for whole-plant-extract medical cannabis have been issued on the NHS, which has left a significant number of patients, many of whom are children with intractable epilepsy, with no access to medical cannabis and experiencing severe distress”.

Penning went on to say that “private prescriptions are being honoured”.

“The product is available in this country, perfectly legally, to those who can afford it, and that sticks strongly in my throat,” he added.

Seema Kennedy, the pharmacy minister, told the House that since 1 November 2018, when medical cannabis was rescheduled to make it available for prescription, six NHS prescriptions for medical cannabis had been issued “in the community”. In a written response on 13 May 2019, Kennedy said that three NHS prescriptions had been issued in primary care in January 2019 and February 2019.

Asked when NHS England’s interim report on medical cannabis prescribing in the NHS would be published, Kennedy said that interviews with “clinicians, decision makers and their patients” were currently being scheduled and that the first interviews had taken place earlier that day. The report itself, which was commissioned by Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, was “expected shortly”, she said.

Kennedy also told MPs that when there was supporting evidence for efficacy of a medical cannabis product, “the government and the NHS will work with companies to make the products available”. She added that “more than 110” patients were currently receiving Epidiolex, a purified formulation of CBD, as part of an early access programme that makes certain medicines available before they have been fully licensed.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206571

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