I know that conditions like severe epilepsy can be highly debilitating for patients, and distressing for their loved ones. It is important, therefore, that the NHS makes effective treatments available where appropriate; and I can understand the frustration of patients and their families when some potential treatments are difficult to obtain.
As you will know, in 2018, the Government rightly took the decision to reschedule cannabis-based medical products, following a number of cases that demonstrated the need to review the use of cannabis-based medicine in treating patients with certain conditions in exceptional circumstances. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs reviewed the rescheduling last year, and they recommended that no changes be made.
This means that senior clinicians are able to prescribe these medicines where appropriate, although given the nature of the medicine, I recognise why it should only be prescribed by specialist doctors, on a case-by-case basis.
NHS England has published a review aimed at assessing the barriers to prescribing cannabis-based medical products where it is safe and clinically appropriate to do so, and NICE has updated its clinical guidance on prescribing cannabis-based products for medicinal use, including for the management of chronic pain. I also understand that import restrictions have been altered to help ensure that people with prescriptions for cannabis-based medicine do not have their treatment delayed or interrupted.
I hope this progress will help ensure that patients receive the best, most appropriate treatment, based on robust evidence and the decisions of medical experts; and I hope this will lead to better outcomes for patients, and more peace of mind for their families and friends.