Medical cannabis can now be prescribed in the UK

More people in the UK will have access to medical cannabis as of today following last month’s announcement that the rules around prescribing cannabis would be relaxed.

The change in law follows the stories of high profile cases such as Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, both children who have suffered from epilepsy whose symptoms have been alleviated by using cannabis oil.

“I have personally seen how my son’s life has changed due to the medical cannabis he is now prescribed,” Alfie’s mother Hannah Deacon said in welcoming the shift. “As a family we were facing his death. Now we are facing his life, full of joy and hope which is something I wish for each and every person in this country who could benefit from this medicine.”

Billy’s mom, Charlotte Caldwell also sees the move toward relaxing cannabis laws as a step in the right direction.

“Only relatively recently did our Government and country really start to appreciate just how many wee children and people of all ages were affected by the difficulties associated with accessing medicinal cannabis,” she said. “But once it became clear that it wasn’t just about what was perceived to be a small number of very sick children, and that medicinal cannabis could make a life-changing or life-saving difference to more than a million people, the overwhelming support of the public and the incredible speed of reaction of the Home Secretary has delivered an utterly amazing result.”

Billy had been seizure-free for more than 300 days while he was using his medication but the seizures started again when he had to stop using the cannabis oil. Pressure caused by public outrage forced the hand of the government to grant a license to Billy to use his medication again.

Cannabis can certainly help many other children and adults who suffer and though relaxing the laws is a move toward this, many are saying that this is still far too restrictive.

The NHS released a statement saying that cannabis-based medicine “should only be prescribed for indications where there is clear published evidence of benefit or UK Guidelines and in patients where there is a clinical need which cannot be met by a licensed medicine and where established treatment options have been exhausted”.

Cannabis can also only be prescribed by a specialist doctor and not by a general practitioner, so it may take time for patients to actually have cannabis-based medicine prescribed to them.

The MS Society UK told BBC News that this makes access to treatment “much more limited than we were led to believe”.

“We’re calling on NHS England to revisit this guidance urgently, and engage with neurological experts to ensure people with MS are not left disappointed and unable to access the right treatment for them,” said Genevieve Edwards from the MS Society.

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