The law was changed on 1 November 2018 to allow clinicians on the General Medical Council’s ‘Specialist Register’ to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use, where clinically appropriate and in the best interest of patients. To support clinicians and develop the evidence base, the following action has been taken:
- Interim clinical guidance has been issued by the Royal College of Physicians, the British Paediatric Neurology Association and the Association of British Neurologists to support doctors looking to prescribe cannabis-based products;
- The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has been commissioned to develop updated clinical guidance on the prescribing of cannabis-based medicinal products, which will be published by October 2019. It will be based on the best available international evidence and will have been produced using NICE’s world-renowned process for delivering such guidance;
- Health Education England has been commissioned to develop a training package for health professionals to support their understanding of these products and their potential as medicines; and
- The National Institute for Health Research has issued two calls for research, to move forward the evidence base.
In the meantime, NHS England and NHS Improvement have undertaken a review and will advise Ministers on any barriers to clinically appropriate prescribing. This will help to support implementation of this policy and ensure that the demands of those patients that want to try medicinal cannabis are balanced against other demands on NHS funding, and that patients and clinicians are provided with the best information on which to decide, together, on treatment options that are most likely to provide benefit. These may include unlicensed cannabis-based products for medicinal use, but may also include consideration of licensed medicines, and other novel products and treatments that are currently going through clinical trials.