New research published in the journal BMJ Open has suggested that it is time to make cannabis products legal for medicinal use in the United Kingdom in order to help patients with chronic pain.
The study researchers found that hundreds of thousands of patients in the UK were self-medicating with illegal cannabis products for medicinal use because most medical and pharmacy professionals have not yet embraced and prescribed legal cannabis products for their patients.
In November 2108, the UK government was about to make cannabis products legal for medicinal use, and most people assumed that the products would be made available to patients, which has not happened so far.
Since then, no NHS prescriptions have been issued for cannabis products, while less than a hundred have been made available through private practitioners at a prescription cost of at least £1,000 a month.
Some parents of children with severe epilepsy still to go overseas to get cannabinoid medication – the only treatment that has been proven to be effective for their condition.
Furthermore, it is estimated that more than 1.4 million people get medical marijuana from the black market with no source of legality, quality, content, or provenance.
Therefore, the researchers wanted to understand why the UK has been lagging behind so many other nations that have made medical cannabis legal.
They checked with parents, patients, prescribers, pharmacists, and policymakers.
The team found that policymakers faced additional organizational bureaucracy and prescribers had to hold responsibility for any untold harm to patients.
Another reason was the medical professionals focused more on the risks associated with cannabis, including male sterility, lung cancer, and schizophrenia. However, these side effects have been largely debunked and were generally due to recreational use rather than medical use, which many practitioners not aware of it.
They explained that hundreds of thousands of patients in the UK have been self-medicating with illegal cannabis products for medical purposes. Even the international evidence suggests that cannabis products do offer advanced treatment for many patients.
The researchers argued that cannabis products do save NHS money in regards to reduced hospitalization and less prescribing of opioids for chronic pain.
“The failure of the medical and pharmacy professions to embrace CBPMs [cannabis-based products for medicinal use] despite their being made ‘legal’ over 18 months ago is a great worry to patients” and “may have led to preventable deaths from conditions such as epilepsy,” they concluded. They added, “We hope that this paper will help policymakers and prescribers understand the challenges to prescribing and so help them develop approaches to overcome the current highly unsatisfactory situation.”