Following the move of cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 in 2018, the medical cannabis market in the United Kingdom has seen substantial changes. The recent House of Commons Committee Report provides insight into the condition of medical cannabis in the UK today and a preview of the prospects and difficulties that lie ahead.
Schedule 2 as a game-changer in the UK
Cannabis’ rescheduling in 2018 was a turning point for the UK’s medical cannabis industry. This change opened the door for specialised clinicians to recommend medicinal cannabis. This, thereby, brought in a new era of opportunities for patients looking for non-traditional therapies. In detail, the change gave specialised physicians the power to recommend cannabis-based products for medical use (CBPMs), whether they were employed by the NHS or in the commercial sector.
However, despite the rescheduling, licensed CBPMs have not yet hit the market in the UK. A product needs to meet Schedule 2 requirements and have marketing permission from regulatory agencies like the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) in order to be classified as a CBPM. There are currently unlicensed CBPMs on the market that adhere to Schedule 2 but have not yet been given marketing approval. Furthermore, there are three licensed cannabis medicines – Epidyolex, Nabilone, and Sativex. They are applied to treat specific conditions such as severe epilepsy, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and multiple sclerosis-related spasticity.
Current prescription patterns
NHS issues medical cannabis prescriptions only in extreme circumstances. These are such as when other therapies have failed or are inappropriate. Only a few patients have received CBPMs on the NHS, according to recent data. Exact figures cannot be released to preserve patient privacy. However, encouraging signs of medical cannabis’ effectiveness in treating chronic pain have been discovered. Observational studies showed that a significant percentage of patients who used medical cannabis for managing chronic pain were able to cut back on or stop using opiate medicines.
Medical cannabis: challenges in access
Despite the changing environment, many patients still face difficulties getting access to medical cannabis. Many people see the limitations in the current access routes for medical cannabis. It seems to be expensive, with occuring supply chain concerns. In order to save money, many patients turn to buying private medications. Because of this circumstance, some people may turn to the black market in order to find the relief they need. This is a worrying development since it may lead to the criminalization of people who have legitimate medical requirements.
Report learnings: looking forward whilst addressing the gaps
The NHS Cannabis Report identifies a number of issues that require focus and resolution. First and foremost, individuals with valid medical needs should have more access to unlicensed CBPMs on the NHS. Further study and randomised control trials are necessary to determine the therapeutic usefulness of CBPMs for the management of chronic pain. It should come with the potential to incorporate CBPMs into therapy alternatives in the right circumstances. A strong evidence foundation for the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of CBPMs must occur through collaboration between the government, doctors, and researchers. As the report says:
“The ACMD seeks to provide scientific, evidence-based recommendations to support the development of evidence-based drug policy.”
In conclusion, a turning point is near for the UK’s medical cannabis industry. Although we can see many succeses since cannabis reschedule in 2018, there are still present obstacles. The UK has the ability to offer beneficial medical cannabis solutions for individuals in need while navigating the complex web of legislation, access, and awareness with a dedication to research, accessibility, and patient-centric policy.
Nevertheless, the Scottish NHS has already supported the UK medical cannabis company – Ananda Developments. Thanks to this cooperation, they will be able to mark a notable advance in endometriosis pain management with their new MRX1 cannabinoid oil.