Cannabis-derived medicinal products are to be made available on prescription by the autumn, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has announced.
Specialist clinicians will be allowed to prescribe cannabis-derived medicinal products following a two-part review commissioned by the secretary of state in June.
Mr Javid has decided to reclassify these products following two cases of sick children who were denied the cannabis-derived medication they relied on to control their life-threatening illnesses.
Following a public outcry, and having taken expert advice, Mr Javid has announced that the medicines will now be able to be prescribed to patients “with an exceptional clinical need.”
What Does the Change Mean in Practice?
Cannabis is currently classed as a Schedule 1 drug – which covers those deemed to have no therapeutic value. The Home Secretary’s decision will put certain cannabis-derived products into Schedule 2 – those that have a potential medical use.
It is now up to the Department for Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency to develop a clear definition of what constitutes a cannabis-derived medicinal product before they can be prescribed.
While this goes on, clinicians will be able to apply to an independent expert panel on behalf of patients who want to access these products.
Right To Medical Care
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Arguably, this decision by the Home Secretary is a good example of ‘progressive realisation‘ of our right to medical care.
Progressive realisation is the principle recognised by international law that more rights should be introduced as a country’s political and economic situation moves forward.
Both the World Health Organisation and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognise the right to health – and the legalisation of a previously banned medication that can help those in dire need certainly seems to fulfil the goal of progressive realisation of this right.
Will Cannabis Be Legalised for Recreational Use?
Home Secretary Sajid Javid. Image Credit: Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Govt/Flickr
No. The Home Secretary has reiterated that other forms of cannabis will remain under strict controls, and will not be available on prescription.
The government make clear that the announcement “does not pave the way towards legalising cannabis for recreational use,” and that possession of the class B drug would still carry an unlimited fine and up to five years in jail, while dealers face 14 years in prison.
Making the announcement, Sajid Javid said that recent cases involving sick children had “made it clear…that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory.”
Chief Medical Advisor, Professor Dame Sally Davies, concluded in the first part of the review that there is evidence that medicinal cannabis has therapeutic benefits.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) carried out the second part of the review, where they considered the appropriate schedule for cannabis-derived medicinal products, weighing up the harms and public health requirements.
The ACMD agreed that there was evidence of medicinal benefits from some of these products in certain circumstances and clinicians in the UK should have the option to prescribe them.
Want to know how we got here? Read More: Is There a Case for the Right to Medicinal Cannabis?