Cannabis climbdown misled NHS patients

Cannabis climbdown misled NHS patients – campaigners

Cannabis climbdown misled NHS patients

A high-profile government climbdown that legalised a type of cannabis medicine on the NHS five years ago misled patients, campaigners say.

It was thought the law change would mean the unlicensed drug, which treats a range of conditions, could be freely prescribed by specialist doctors.

But fewer than five NHS patients have been given the medicine, leaving others to either pay privately or miss out.

The government says safety needs to be proven before a wider rollout.

Legalisation of whole-cannabis medicine was hailed as a breakthrough for patients – giving either NHS or private specialist doctors the option to prescribe it if they believed their patients would benefit.

Medical whole cannabis uses the entire cannabis plant – which includes the compound THC, the part which can make people feel high.

But patients are being turned away, say campaigners, because doctors often do not know about the medicine, which is not on NHS trusts’ approved lists. Some specialists who do know about it say there is insufficient evidence of the drug’s safety and benefits to support prescribing.

The drug would need to undergo medical trials before it could be officially licensed – but these are costly and complicated because of the many chemical compounds within the cannabis plant. Campaigners say trials of medicines containing whole plant cannabis, particularly with the aim of helping children, would be unethical as some patients would have to come off essential medication to take a placebo.