The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has announced the legalization of medical cannabis products in the UK after several high profile cases involving children with severe epilepsy caused him to rethink current policy.
The reclassification means that by autumn it will be possible for specialist doctors to issue cannabis-derived medicinal products to patients under NHS prescription, without obtaining a special licence. Prescriptions will be subject to ‘safety and quality standards’ and only in cases of what Javid calls ‘exceptional clinical need’.
The decision was prompted by comments from the chief medical officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, who advised the Government that patients with certain medical conditions should have access to medical cannabis treatments.
Our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory
“Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory,” says Javid. “This is why we launched a review and set up an expert panel to advise on licence applications in exceptional circumstances.
Javid stresses that while the change in policy will help some patients, it is ‘in no way a first step to the legalization of cannabis for recreational use’.
The Department for Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency will now agree on a definition of what constitutes a cannabis-derived medicinal product.