Specialist doctors have been given the green light to prescribe cannabis-based medicines.
The law change, laid in Parliament on Thursday, followed an urgent review of cannabis-based medicinal products and recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and the UK’s chief medical adviser.
Only specialist doctors – not GPs – can prescribe the medicines, which are unlicensed. The new law will not limit the types of conditions that can be considered for treatment but prescribing will be for medicinal use on a case-by-case basis, and only when the patient has an unmet special clinical need that cannot be met by licensed products.
NHS England, the British Paediatric Neurology Association and the Royal College of Physicians will provide clinical advice to doctors ahead of the law change. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has been commissioned to develop more detailed guidelines for clinicians in the longer term.
Home secretary Sajid Javid has made it clear that the announcement does not pave the way towards legalising cannabis for recreational use. The penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged.