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NHS England cannabis access review to speak with families paying £40k for private prescriptions

As part of a review into medical cannabis prescribing on the NHS, 22 families who have had problems accessing the drug since its reclassification will speak to NHS England.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Medical Cannabis under Prescription has said it has put forward 22 families to speak with NHS England as part of its “rapid processes evaluation” of NHS medical cannabis prescribing.

Speaking to The Pharmaceutical Journal, a spokesperson for the APPG, said some of these 22 families have been forced to pay £40,000 a year to access medical cannabis through private prescriptions since the law was changed in November 2018, after their NHS clinicians refused to prescribe it.

On 8 April 2019, health secretary Matt Hancock announced in Parliament that he had asked NHS England to launch an evaluation of medical cannabis prescribing to “address barriers” to its prescription.

According to the APPG, no NHS prescriptions for medical cannabis have been written since it was rescheduled in 2018.

parliamentary answer from pharmacy minister Seema Kennedy on 8 May 2019 revealed that the review “will be clinically led by the NHS England and NHS Improvement medical director and chief pharmaceutical officer, drawing on further specialist support as required” and will involve interviews with those involved in the prescribing process, including patients, carers and relevant trust staff.

She added that NHS England had been asked to provide an interim report on the evaluation to Hancock “by the end of May 2019”.

The APPG spokesperson said the end of May deadline was “optimistic”.

They added that many of the families put forward to speak with NHS England have children with severe intractable epilepsy and some have resorted to importing cannabis-based products from abroad through private prescriptions “at the cost of about £40,000 a year”.

Despite patients seeing benefits from medical cannabis acquired privately, “NHS clinicians have refused to provide [it]”.

“We’re hoping this review helps with the understanding exactly what, in all these instances, is stopping clinicians prescribing if you’ve got the evidence in front of you like that,” they said.

But they added that NHS England “have been fairly vague in what the review looks like”, which they said has been “disappointing”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206525

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