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NHS medical cannabis prescribing data unlikely to be published soon

It is unlikely that figures on NHS England prescriptions for medical cannabis will be published by the end of March 2019, despite ministerial assurances that they would, The Pharmaceutical Journal has been told.

On 10 January 2019, pharmacy minister Steve Brine said in a parliamentary written question that NHS England had established systems to monitor the prescribing of cannabis-based products for medical use. The first data from this monitoring was expected by the end of March 2019, he added.

A spokesperson for the NHS Business Services Authority (BSA) has told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it expects the prescribing figures to be low. As a consequence, the spokesperson said, NHS BSA does not currently intend to publish the data because of the risk that individual patients could be identified if the data was combined with other information in the public domain.

The authority will continue to report the prescribing results to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on a monthly basis, the spokesperson added.

At an evidence session on medical cannabis policy held by the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee on 19 March 2019, Alette Addison, head of pharmacy and regulation at the DHSC, said she was not surprised by the small number of medical cannabis prescriptions issued since the law changed in November 2018.

“When we look at the experience of other countries, it is a very slow start and it does build,” she said.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206325

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