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A new white paper, authored by a number of leading experts in the medical cannabis industry, has been introduced in the UK. The paper, ‘Medical cannabis in the UK: From principle to practice’ outlines how to progress research and patient access to the medicine.

Cannabis was rescheduled in November 2018, allowing for the medical prescription of the drug. However, the number of patients who have received a medical cannabis prescription through the NHS has remained extremely low. A lack of clinical evidence and medical training on cannabis is often blamed for the slow progress of patient access in the UK.

The paper addresses and offers solutions to the need for additional research into the medical potential of cannabis. It also outlines ways in which prescription barriers and regulatory issues could be overcome.
In a recent interview with Health Europa, Co-author of the white paper, Anne Schlag, said:

“It is a tragedy that despite the legalisation of medical cannabis in November 2018, no new NHS prescriptions have been written, and patients, many of whom have been shown to benefit from the medicine, are still unable to access it.”

The rescheduling of cannabis in 2018 has allowed some patients to access medical cannabis through private clinics. However, it was recently revealed that since the law change over 18 months ago, no new NHS prescriptions have been granted.

The number of medical cannabis products available in the UK is extremely limited. Sativex, Epidiolex, and Nabilone are the only licensed medications. Last year, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence published its recommendations for the prescription of the medications. The list of conditions listed in these recommendations was also extremely limited.

According to Health Europa, co-author, Prof. Michael Barnes, added:
“I fundamentally disagree with the NICE guidelines. Double blind, placebo-controlled studies are quite rightly the gold standard in pharmaceutical medicine. When you have a single molecule medicine you can easily go through these studies to see how they compare, however, cannabis does not lend itself to that.”

Due to the hundreds of compounds found in the cannabis plant, it is considered difficult to assess the plant’s medical potential through the ‘gold-standard’ of clinical testing. Leading experts often express the need to consider other study designs for evidence, such as observational studies and patient audit studies.

Drug Science last year launched its patient registry, Project Twenty21. The study aims to supply up to 20,000 patients with medical cannabis by 2021. It is hoped that it will gather evidence to help progress patient access to medical cannabis in the UK.

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