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Prescriptions for medical cannabis products increased almost tenfold in 2021

According to figures released by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), prescriptions for unauthorized medical cannabis in the private healthcare sector have increased by nearly 1,000% over a 12-month period.

The health and social services regulator’s report — ‘Managing Controlled Medications Safer: 2021 Annual Update‘, published in July 2022 – indicates that 37,634 cannabis medical products (CBMPs) were prescribed by non-NHS health services between January and November 2021, compared to 3,636 over the same period in 2020.

Conversely, during the same period, NHS prescribing of CBMP in England was so low that data could not be reported.

“The number of items prescribed in the NHS is so small that it could potentially affect patient confidentiality,” the report said.

On April 25, 2022, in response to a written question on the assessment made of the adequacy of access to medical cannabis for those eligible, Pharmacy Minister Maria Caulfield said: “Licensed cannabis medicines are regularly available on the NHS.

“However, clinical guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence demonstrate a clear need for more evidence to support routine prescribing and funding decisions for cannabis products not authorized for medical use. until this evidence base is built, prescribers will remain reluctant to prescribe and no decisions can be made by the NHS on routine funding.

In July 2020, a CQC report found that in 2019 – the first year CBMPs were legally available – 18 NHS prescriptions were issued in England.

Then, in October 2020, the National Institute for Health Research confirmed that no government-funded medical cannabis trials were underway, despite a call for applications.

Several private health clinics capable of providing CBMPs have been established since the legalization of medical cannabis in November 2018.

At the time of publication of the latest CQC update, there were 15 registered providers of unlicensed CBMP in England, with more being assessed for registration.

Sapphire Medical Clinic was the first dedicated medical cannabis clinic in the UK to be registered by the CQC on October 3, 2019.

Commenting on the recent increase in CBMP prescriptions, Simon Erridge, Head of Research and Access at Sapphire Medical Clinics, said: “Since 2020, we have seen an 846% increase in the number of patients accessing our specialist service. .

“The prescribing of unlicensed cannabis medicines through the NHS has not seen the same growth. The most important reason behind this is the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guideline issued in 2019, which has not showed sufficient clinical benefit over the costs then associated with these drugs.

“There is also a lack of randomized controlled trials showing the effectiveness of CBMPs compared to other licensed drugs.”

Read more: Medical cannabis has yet to live up to the hype

Joan J. Dean

The author Joan J. Dean