From November 2018 specialist Doctors in England, Wales and Scotland can prescribe cannabis-derived medicine in exceptional circumstances. It was the first change to the law on medicinal cannabis, which had been in place since 1971.
Certain cannabis-derived products have been reclassified as Schedule Two. This means they have a potential medical use and can now be legally prescribed in cases of children with rare, severe epilepsy, adults with vomiting/nausea from chemotherapy and adults with muscle stiffness caused by MS – if other treatments have failed.
As medicinal cannabis can only be prescribed by specialist physicians and cannot be imported until a prescription is written, very few patients have actually been prescribed it since the change in regulations.
Whilst the law has been changed, many patients trying to get medicinal cannabis have not – and will not – be able to get it soon. That’s because England’s Chief Medical Officer has called for scientific trials to check its safety, which may take years.
Medicinal cannabis hit the headlines back in 2018 when a child suffering from autism and severe epilepsy had his medication confiscated at Heathrow airport. The coverage of this case caused a public outcry and started a campaign to change the law.
Billy Caldwell had previously been treated for his seizures by a specialist in Chicago, and his antiepileptic medication intake was reduced from six medications to one. The treatment was very successful and saw the remission of his seizures for eight years.
In 2016 the seizures returned, becoming more frequent and severe.
Another high profile case about medicinal cannabis was that of Alfie Dingley. His condition improved when he was prescribed cannabis in Amsterdam, and it was predicted his seizures would fall from 3,000 a year to just 20 on this medication. His family eventually moved there because they couldn’t get the medication in the UK.
His mother became the first person to be granted a special licence to import medicinal cannabis back to the UK. Alfie has since become tolerant to his medication and needs a new strain – but fears it’ll take months to get access to this, despite the law changing two years ago.
You may not be directly asked about medicinal cannabis, but you can show your knowledge by referencing this when you answer some broader questions on medication or ethics. For example:
Loading More Content