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UK Cannabis Clinic Now Offers Products at a More Affordable Price Than the Illicit Market

By Alexander Beadle

Published: Oct 23, 2020   
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Sapphire Medical Clinics, the first UK medical cannabis clinic to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has announced that a number of its patients are now using a new, more affordable, range of medical cannabis products.

In tackling this cost barrier for prospective patients, the Sapphire Medical Clinics team hopes that more people who would benefit from medical cannabis treatment will now be able to access high-quality medical cannabis product, instead of feeling that they have no other option but to turn to street dealers and their unregulated cannabis.

British supply partnership allows for more affordable treatments

The new cannabis product range, manufactured in the UK by EMMAC, represents a significant cost reduction for patients.

Previously, supplying medical cannabis within the UK was an expensive business. The products would be handled by multiple companies at different steps through the supply chain, with each new step incurring added costs. This month, EMMAC became the UK’s first complete seed-to-sale vertically integrated cannabis business, which helped it to cut out the extra handlers and offer the products it produces at a significantly lower cost to patients.

By using medical cannabis products supplied by EMMAC, treatment through one of the seven Sapphire Medical Clinics located across the UK can now cost less than £5 per day – a price that reduces the cost of prescription cannabis to below the level of illicit market alternatives.

“We have certainly seen in the clinic that financial constraints have been a significant barrier to access for many patients,” Dr Michael Platt, medical director and consultant pain physician at Sapphire Medical Clinics, said in a statement. “As treatment becomes more affordable, we hope this provides an immediate solution for those patients who would otherwise benefit from medicinal cannabis but have previously been unable to afford the associated costs of treatment.”

Carl Holvey, chief pharmacist at Sapphire Clinics added, “It is very welcome to see UK-produced medical cannabis products finally available to patients that meet the high regulatory standards and consistent availability that we expect. Patients that resort to sourcing cannabis illicitly face more than just the legalities of self-medicating, but also the unknown strength, contaminants, and unpredictability of this way of medicating.”

Improving medicinal cannabis access in the UK

While medical cannabis has been legal in the UK since 2018, it is still challenging for most people to access the treatment. While there is still a multitude of reasons contributing to this inaccessibility – such as expense, the absence of cannabis from the current medical curriculum, or the perceived lack of formal scientific research on cannabis’ benefits – improvements are now slowly being made through the launch of new initiatives.

Sapphire Medical also operates the Sapphire Medical Foundation, a group dedicated to reducing the financial barriers to medical cannabis access. Supported by donors and fundraisers, the foundation provides grants to prospective patients who would otherwise struggle to pay for treatment. In July of this year, the foundation was able to guarantee its first patient at least a year’s worth of funding to pay for their treatments.

Sapphire Medical also maintains a registry of all medical cannabis patients in the UK, with the intent of gathering as much real-world data as possible on cannabis’ use for a variety of different medical conditions. As double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies on medical cannabis’ effectiveness are still rare, the registry provides an alternative evidence base that can be analyzed and evaluated to better inform clinicians about the drug’s use.

“At Sapphire Clinics all patients are added to the UK Medical Cannabis Registry and our real-world data platform contributing to the growing evidence base,” said Platt. “This data will ultimately help guide the availability for free treatment on the NHS in appropriate conditions.”

There are also many institutions now working to improve medical professionals’ knowledge of the cannabis plant and the endocannabinoid system, so that these doctors and prescribers can feel more assured in their ability to assess whether a patient would benefit from medical cannabis.

Worldwide studies of professional attitudes have indicated that while many doctors are broadly supportive of cannabis medicine, they feel that they currently still lack the knowledge to properly prescribe it. Educational initiatives such as the ones run by the Sapphire Institute for Medical Cannabis Education, the Academy of Medical Cannabis, or Drug Science’s MEDIC (Medical Education in Cannabinoids) courses and events are all playing their part in improving medical cannabis access in the UK.


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