The perceptions of medicinal cannabis are changing. From a plant stigmatised to a greater number of people discovering its health benefits.
So what are the next steps for opening up access to medicinal cannabis on our NHS ?
Since Billy had his life saving medicinal cannabis confiscated at LHR which led to 50yr old outdated , unjust 50yr old UK cannabis law been changed on 1st November 2018 we have advocated tirelessly through https://iambilly.uk/ highlighting the benefits of medicinal cannabis and trying to push the agenda forward through positive means. This was a momentous moment allowing Billy to access the first perscription for whole plant medicine funded by our NHS .
“Education is central” to how medicinal cannabis is seen and how change is brought about.
The question is, the education of who?
Having had the privilege of meeting and spending time with some of the most eminent global doctors I have come to learn for medicinal cannabis expansion , in particular within our wonderful NHS that specialist consultants and GPs as well as the public who need educating.
The reason for this is so that those doctors can feel confident in prescribing medicinal cannabis products which would lead to NHS reimbursement .
Doctors just like other professionals, owe a duty of care to their patients.
As a result, understandably they don’t want to prescribe something they don’t understand or unfamiliar with.
What we know of the public narrative “ 3 Prescriptions in 3 years “ has not been the case leading to misinformed doctors and public but most importantly vulnerable chronically ill patients.
The Advisory Council on The Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has found that in England between 2019 and 2020, 328 patients were prescribed a cannabis-based medicine in the NHS, with a further 537 prescriptions issued as a special since 2018. More recent data demonstrates that in 2021 at least 1,486 prescriptions were issued for a cannabis based medicine in England.
The decision to reimburse eg ; Sativax , demonstrates that, if provided with high-quality evidence, health authorities will provide access to and fund rigorously-tested cannabis-based medicines to patients who could benefit from them. This demonstrates a will to prescribe.
It’s about educating on what to prescribe and how to prescribe, how they should be looking at it and how they should be managing that patient journey.
The reason for this is because cannabis is not like other medications where it’s a single chemical solution or a single isolate solution. It’s a full spectrum and it needs to be managed accordingly.
While a lack of education among doctors is a problem, Medisonal, a new UK start up has developed a solution. A first for the UK .
The solution is CPD accredited courses which are targeted to both existing, and future prescribers of cannabis-based products for medicinal use (CBPM). https://www.medisonal.co.uk/mie-course/
This is a platform for doctors “ free” to use which enables them to be educated about the governance process around cannabis from a regulatory perspective and the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of medical conditions.
It takes them through an entire journey to help them become comfortable with prescribing.
The aim is that with more doctors prescribing medicinal cannabis this in turn will help change the optics of medicinal cannabis.
Awareness among the general public is another area for education . A lot of people are not aware that you can get cannabis on prescription and a lot of people who are now in the NHS and consulting with private doctors are not aware you can get cannabis on prescription.
With a change in the optics and the attachment of medicinal cannabis to certain conditions the hope is people will move from associating cannabis with recreational to the medicinal.
So far medicinal cannabis has been attached with benefiting patients with a range of conditions such as:
- Chronic pain
- Long Covid
- Brain tumours
- Crohn’s disease
- Prostate cancer
- Bowel cancer.
However, there are some caution to medicinal cannabis’s potential benefits.
A lot of the positive results have come from early-stage trials which I would encourage more of the industry to work towards with regulators and gather more evidence on the efficacy of this medicine and be the change they want to inspire
There is still a long tough journey ahead for medicinal cannabis expansion on the NHS.
Only with more fit for “purpose” studies/ trials , education and evidence will come greater credibility and persuasiveness among the medicinal establishment and the public.
Billy & Charlotte Caldwell