Medical cannabis will be legal to prescribe on the NHS from next month, the Home Office has announced.
The law, which allows specialist doctors such as paediatricians, to prescribe cannabis-based medicines in some cases, was laid in Parliament today (11 October).
The legislation will come into effect from 1 November and there will not be a limit on which conditions the medicines can be prescribed for. Specialist doctors will no longer have to seek the permission of an expert panel to make the medicines accessible to their patients.
The specialist doctors should make these prescribing decisions on a case-by-case basis and only when the patient has an unmet special clinical need that cannot be met by licensed products.
GPs will not be able to issue prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines, the Home Office clarified.
The new law does not ‘pave the way’ to legalising the recreational use of cannabis, with the current penalties for unlawful cannabis possession or supply to remain the same.
‘Moved by heartbreaking cases’
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Having been moved by heartbreaking cases involving sick children, it was important to me that we took swift action to help those who can benefit from medicinal cannabis.
‘We have now delivered on our promise and specialist doctors will have the option to prescribe these products where there is a real need.
‘I’m grateful to the expert panel – who have been considering cases in the interim – and to those who’ve worked hard to bring about this change at the earliest possible opportunity.’
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has been commissioned to develop more detailed guidelines on prescribing cannabis-based products, the Home Office said.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Ash Soni said: ‘This news will be welcomed by many patients with serious health conditions.
‘The prospect of a future where safe and effective licensed cannabis-based medicines can be prescribed to help relieve suffering is genuinely exciting.
We will work with the NHS to help support specialists in making the right prescribing decisions.’