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Cannabis: Medical Treatments

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 3150, tabled on 14 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans he has to expedite access to the whole-plant extract of prescribed medical cannabis containing cannabidiol and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol which consultants have prescribed to some severely epileptic children; and if he will make a statement.

Answered on

22 January 2020

Guidelines published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) demonstrate a clear need for more evidence to support prescribing and funding decisions of cannabis-based medicines (whole-plant extract or otherwise) across all conditions covered in the report. We are working hard with the health system, industry and researchers to improve the knowledge base available.

Central to this, NHS England and NHS Improvement are working closely with partners to deliver all recommendations from the NHS process evaluation report entitled ‘Barriers to Accessing Cannabis Based Products for Medicinal Use’. The following progress has been made:

- On 20 December 2019 a letter was published reminding prescribers of General Medical Council guidance on the prescribing and use of unlicensed medicines – and to clarify the procedure for prescribing and supplying cannabis-based products for medicinal use;

- The National Institute for Health Research has run two research calls for applications on medicinal cannabis. Following these, a workshop was held including applicants, NHS England and NHS Improvement, the Department and other research experts. We expect this to have halved the time required to design and gain funding agreement for a safe and high quality clinical trial. Researchers are expected to involve patients in both the design and delivery of the research;

- Funding has been fast-tracked by NHS England and NHS Improvement and is available from 6 January 2020 for patients who fulfil the criteria for the recently published NICE Technology Appraisals for the use of cannabidiol in conjunction with clobazam for adjuvant treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes. This will improve access to licensed cannabis-based products for appropriate patients. NICE guidelines on the prescribing of cannabis-based medicines also recommend Sativex to treat moderate to severe spasticity in adults with multiple sclerosis;

- A new Refractory Epilepsy Specialist Clinical Advisory Network is being established and will launch shortly. This will make a positive addition to the current well-established clinical networks; and

- A patient registry is being developed with input from specialist clinicians and other advisory bodies.