While much of Europe, and the Commonwealth have advanced their healthcare systems in order to provide their patients with access to medicinal cannabis, the UK is extremely late in adopting this widely accepted system.
Currently, medical cannabis in the UK is supplied as a “Specials Medicine.” Because cannabis has no marketing authorisation to prove it is clinically effective, this “special category” means that the doctor assumes full responsibility for the prescription, once it has been prescribed to a patient. Taking into consideration the effect that prescribing this medication could have on their medical license it is understandable that most doctors would not be open to prescribing, or perhaps even discussing, a cannabinoid substance as an effective medication for their patient.
So, why are doctors so ill informed on modern medicine? Why are most doctors not educated on the endocannabinoid system? And why is their job on the line for simply prescribing an alternative form of medicine to their patient? The answer, lies within the UK Government and the NHS.
In 1971 cannabis was reclassified as a Class C drug, resulting in a prison sentence for up to two years for possession, and 5 years if there was intent to supply. This classification made critical research even more difficult, and due to lack of support from the UK Government most research proving cannabis to be effective was widely criticized. It is because of this that most general practitioners in the UK are ill informed about the UK’s medical cannabis access program and it works.
This leaves the patient only one option, to obtain medicinal cannabis through private medical cannabis clinics who are employing “Specialists Doctors” whom understand the endocannabinoid system and are experts in prescribing the wide variety of medical cannabis products available now. However, while NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines do allow for the NHS to reimburse medical cannabis prescriptions for; chemo-related nausea, spasticity caused by MS, and some forms of childhood epilepsies, these occurrences are extremely rare.
When the UK reclassified and criminalised cannabis, it not only attached a dangerous stigma to the medicinal drug, it also prevented years of critical research. The fact that many GPs do not understand the endocannabinoid system makes approaching your GP to explore cannabis based medicines a taboo, and daunting prospect for most. And to those of you fitting in that category, Access Kaneh have developed this guide to help inform people on the UK’s cannabis regulations, and to support in initiating the conversation of navigating the prescription process in order to obtain medical cannabis.
Firstly, you want to talk to your GP about the endocannabinoid system. — It is a professional duty of GPs to stay current in medical advances (pain specialists do learn the endocannabinoid system as part of their core curriculum) and understanding the endocannabinoid system and how medicinal cannabis interacts with it, is no exception.
The General Medical Council has laid out these requirements:
If you feel you meet these criteria or would be interested in talking further, get in touch.
In order to get a consultation with a medical cannabis clinic you will need to ask your GP for a referral letter and state why you are looking for a prescription. It should be noted that GPs in some cases are charging for this letter. An alternative approach is to ask for an “Electronic Patient Summary Record” that documents your medical history.
Please note there are no barriers to medical cannabis treatments and any conditions can be considered if there is a medical history that can be illustrated.
The majority of the growing number of prescriptions issued are to improve the quality of life for patients suffering from:
Private cannabis clinics have an initial consultation cost that varies but with the costs of Medical Cannabis falling there is now a real alternative for patients.
You the patient, have the right to be involved in any discussions, and be informed about the decisions of your care and treatment. It is a duty of your GP to support you as much as they can in decisions about your care.
It is your choice within the current guideline’s framework and we can help you if you need.