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UK: Medicinal cannabis should be available for all NHS patients, campaigners say

The Telegraph

Monday 15 Oct 2018

Medical cannabis should be made available for all NHS patients, campaigners have said, amid expectations it will only be prescribed to help treat three conditions.

The Telegraph understands formal NHS England guidelines, due to be released before November 1, will advise specialist doctors on prescribing cannabis for epilepsy, chronic pain and nausea caused by chemotherapy.

Although new legislation technically allows cannabis to be taken for any condition, doctors are expected to strictly follow the guidelines, meaning they are unlikely to prescribe it for conditions other than those listed.

Campaigners have urged for the drug to be accessed by all patients and pointed to the thousands of people taking cannabis oil illegally for a variety of other conditions.

Patients using the oil for cancer symptoms, Parkinson’s disease, and PTSD must wait until full prescription guidelines are published in October 2019 to see if GPs will prescribe for their conditions.

The full guidelines are expected to give the UK some of the most liberal medicinal cannabis laws in the world.

In the meantime, users could be prosecuted for using cannabis oil or growing their own plants for medicinal use, campaigners said.

Jon Liebling, Political Director of the United Patient Alliance, said: “We do believe that everybody should have access.

"When you're talking about cannabis as a medicine, you really do have to compare the risks associated with cannabis that we're aware of versus the risks of those drugs that patients are already taking.”

Patrick O’Hara, 63, who imports cannabis oil for his daughter Caroline, who has a brain tumour, said that a doctor told him discreetly where to buy the drug online but could not formally recommend its use.

He imports the oil from Canada at a cost of around £1,000 per month, and has written to the Home Secretary asking for cannabis to be available to cancer patients on the NHS.

He said: "There’s a groundswell of opinion among the medical staff, that this is something people should consider doing.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said that the new law will not limit the types of treatment for which cannabis can be prescribed.

Q&A | CBD and cannabis oil

What is CBD oil?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of more than 80 cannabinoids, natural compounds found in the marijuana plant. It is extracted from the plant via steam distillation and usually bottled with a dropper. Unlike THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol – the most abundant cannabinoid, CBD does not have an intoxicating effect.

What does it do?

Most studies of CBD’s effects are preclinical, but is been shown useful in treating social anxiety and lessening episodes of schizophrenia. The most complete research on the benefits of CBD is on treatment of childhood epilepsy and a plant-based medicine, Epidiolex is scheduled for FDA approval in the US.

Another cannabis-based drug, Sativex, is already approved to relive the pain of muscle spasms in people suffering from multiple sclerosis. Clinical trials are also underway to test this category of drugs for cancer pain, glaucoma and appetite loss in people with HIV or AIDS.

Is it legal?

A low-concentration CBD oil is available in UK pharmacies as a health supplement. Campaigners have called for a high-concentration oil to also be made legal here. In December 2016, the government’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency ruled that “products containing CBD used for medical purposes are a medicine”.




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