‘Protect our Patients’ campaign launched
A new campaign calling for GPs to be allowed to prescribe medical cannabis to their patients has been launched by a group of leading industry organisations.
The campaign, led by the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC), the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (MCCS), Volteface, and Maple Tree Consultants, is calling for GPs to have the same rights as consultants.
Initially, the ‘Protect our Patients’ campaign is reaching out across industry to seek support from other organisations who share the same desire for change.
Professor Mike Barnes, who founded both the MCCS and CIC, commented:
“The current model for medical cannabis where only consultants can prescribe is simply not working in the interests of the majority of patients.
“We are calling for a meaningful, yet uncontroversial change for GPs to be allowed to prescribe medical cannabis to their patients. This change can be made in a relatively straightforward manner, and we will be setting out details in due course.
“We urge the industry to unite around this important agenda to protect our patients.”
Hannah Deacon, Director, Maple Tree Consultants, said:
“Maple Tree welcomes this initiative. It is time that medical cannabis is more widely available to those that so badly need it and one way to do this is allow GPs to initiate prescriptions for their patients. This will also help to remove patients from the criminal market.
“There is still so much to do to support patients with access to this legal medicine and I hope to see the whole sector get behind this important initiative.”
Katya Kowalski, Head of Operations at Volteface, commented:
“Volteface is proud to support and stand alongside this initiative. It has been nearly five years since medical cannabis was legalised in the UK yet the number of legally prescribed patients remains low.
“Whilst there are a plethora of barriers to the UK’s medical cannabis system, one of the most pertinent blockers that could be solved through a simple policy change, is to allow GPs to initiate prescriptions.
“Frustratingly, cannabis-based medicines continue to be seen as a ‘last resort’ medicine in the UK. In fact, cannabis should be viewed as a medicine that can treat a variety of general practice issues such as sleep, anxiety and pain.”
Since the Government allowed medical cannabis in 2018, there have been around 1,000 patients annually receiving prescriptions on the NHS, and 20,000 private patients each year.
However, there are 1.8 million people in the UK accessing the illicit cannabis market for medical reasons, which is partly due to GPs not prescribing.
Other factors include the current NHS postcode lottery for licensed cannabis medicines, and because those on low incomes and benefits struggle to afford private cannabis prescriptions.
The campaign has been launched to coincide with Cannabis Europa, which runs from 2 – 3 May in London. The CIC has a stand at the event, where interested parties can indicate their support.
To find out more about the campaign, please visit www.protectourpatients.co.uk
Note: Scope of the campaign
The campaign is not calling for changes to the NICE guidelines (which advise which cannabis medicines can be prescribed for which conditions), or the rules around clinical trials (which ultimately influence the NICE guidelines).