What Will The NHS Actually Prescribe Medicinal Cannabis For?
Medicinal cannabis products are now legally able to be prescribed to patients in the UK for the first time ever.
Only specialist hospital doctors will be allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis in a very small number of cases under this new government ruling.
This decision comes after two boys - Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell - who have severe epilepsy were denied access to cannabis oil to help them, prompting a public outcry.
NHS guidelines explain that the cannabis-based products can only be prescribed where there is a 'clinical need which cannot be met by a licensed product' and where all other treatment options have been 'exhausted'.
There must also be clear published evidence of its benefit for the patient.
NHS treatment could include pills, capsules and oils, but not smoking cannabis. This lift on rules applies to medicinal cannabis treatments that contains THC - the main psychoactive compound in the drug that produces highs in recreational use.
Who can receive the treatments?
- Children with severe forms of epilepsy
- Adults vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy for cancer
- Adults with MS
Children suffering with severe forms of epilepsy may be able to be prescribed medicinal cannabis, like in the cases of Alfie and Billy.
Epilepsy affects the brain and can cause devastating seizures.
Billy's medicinal cannabis, which he gained access to in Canada, was confiscated on his return to the UK at Heathrow airport, attracting national attention.
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Both Billy and Alfie's families said the boys' epilepsy was hugely alleviated by cannabis oil treatments, which weren't legally available in the UK.
Before, a special Home Office license would have been needed to be granted to prescribe medicinal cannabis to children with severe epilepsy, but this is no longer the case.
Adult patients undergoing chemotherapy suffering from sickness and nausea may be able to be prescribed medicinal cannabis by a specialist doctor.
Chemotherapy is a common treatment for people with cancer, but can cause vomiting and nausea, among other nasty side effects.
There is evidence that chemicals in cannabis can help with nausea and pain caused by chemo.
Some drugs containing cannabis chemicals have shown to be effective in treating sickness and improving the patient's appetite.
Chemotherapy drugs are not always used for cancer treatment, and can be prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis among other conditions.
Those suffering with MS may be able to be prescribed medicinal cannabis, although the NHS guidelines to not directly reference the condition.
MS is long-lasting disease which affects the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves in your eyes. It can also cause problems with vision, balance, muscle control and other functions.
The MS Society has said that the guidelines "much more limited than we were led to believe".
MS Society's Genevieve Edwards said: "We're calling on NHS England to revisit this guidance urgently, and engage with neurological experts to ensure people with MS are not left disappointed and unable to access the right treatment for them."
Featured Image Credit: PA Images
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