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Three New Clinics to Prescribe Cannabis to UK Patients

Mar 01, 2019

Three New Clinics to Prescribe Cannabis to UK Patients

Leo Bear-McGuinness
Science Writer
@LeoMcBear

UK patients seeking medical marijuana could soon receive their once-illegal medicine from a chain of private clinics opening in London, Birmingham, and Manchester this spring. 

The three centers will offer “premium and effective medical cannabis care for patients who suffer from conditions that existing treatments have not been effective in treating.”

A consultation will cost £250, and those without a reference from a health care professional will have to be pay an additional £100 for an appointment with one of the clinics’ general practitioners. Any follow-up appointment will cost £150. 

Despite becoming legal in November 2018, few NHS doctors have prescribed cannabis to patients. Many practitioners are unwilling to accept the liability of providing the drug, citing a lack of training or knowledge of its effects. Some professional associations have even discouraged patients from requesting the medicine, stating that “the risk of serious side effects far outweigh any reported benefit.” 

Like clinics in the US and other countries with medicinal use, the Medical Cannabis Clinics will primarily prescribe to patients suffering from chronic pain and neurological disorders. The clinics specifically name “arthritis, fibromyalgia, nerve conditions, muscle cramps, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” as qualifying conditions. 

The UK government’s recent approval of cannabis was largely due to the well-publicized cases of two boys, Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, who live with severe epilepsy. When Billy Caldwell and his mother, Charlotte Caldwell, returned from Canada with a supply of cannabis oil in June 2018, the medicine was seized by authorities. The outcry from the national press quickly prompted the UK Home Office to grant him an exceptional licence and progress medical cannabis legislation. 

But months after being approved, the NHS’s guidelines have had little effect. The families of Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley have both had difficulty renewing their access to medication, and several members of the UK parliament have condemned the licensing regime.

Speaking on behalf of an all-party medical cannabis group back in January, Mike Penning MP said “the fact remains that there is a serious cultural block within the NHS around medical cannabis.” 

“I do not believe that this is what the prime minister and home secretary envisaged when they made the bold change in the law on the 1st of November to reschedule medical cannabis to enable consultants to prescribe it.” 

Seeking to address this blockade, the group of companies behind the clinics, European Cannabis Holdings, facilitated the import of the first bulk shipment of cannabis-based medicine to the UK in February 2019. The group state its aim is “to support patients in need by providing key infrastructure, educational services and marketing support.”

“These clinics represent a much-needed framework to enable access to treatments for a range of serious illnesses and bring the UK into line with other countries when it comes to pain management,” states Professor Barnes. Barnes co-authored the UK’s all-party parliamentary group report on the evidence for medical cannabis and now acts as the Medical Cannabis Clinics’ clinical director. 

“The hope is that over time patients all around the country will have access to the relief that they are looking for.”

 

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