Doctors should be allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients in the UK, the official body which advises the UK Government on drugs has said.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) said there is “evidence of medicinal benefit of some of these products in certain circumstances” and recommended they should be able to be prescribed as long as they meet appropriate safety standards.
It advised Home Secretary Sajid Javid that cannabis-derived medicinal products should be placed in Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, following a commission from the Home Office to review the scheduling of cannabis-derived medicinal products.
The ACMD has now tasked the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) with producing a definition for these products, in order to allow them to be moved out of Schedule 1.
The move was welcomed by the co-chairman of the recently established cross-party parliamentary group on medical cannabis under prescription, Sir Mike Penning, and Professor Mike Barnes, who helped Alfie Dingley, six, from Warwickshire, become the first person in the UK to receive a licence to be treated with medicinal cannabis.
Prof Barnes said: “I’m delighted at this news.
“More widespread access to medical cannabis in the UK is now within touching distance.”
ACMD chairman Dr Owen Bowden-Jones said: “We have completed the first part of our review for rapid advice into the scheduling of cannabis-derived medicinal products.
“We recommend that cannabis-derived medicinal products of the appropriate standard be moved out of Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.
“This means that medical practitioners would be able to prescribe such medications to patients with certain medical conditions.
“At present, cannabis-derived products can vary greatly in their composition, effectiveness and level of impurity.
“It is important that clinicians, patients and their families are confident that any prescribed medication is both safe and effective.
“The ACMD recommends that an appropriate definition be agreed by DHSC and MHRA promptly. Only products meeting this standard and definition should be given medicinal status.
“Though we agree with the Chief Medical Officer for England that there is now evidence of therapeutic benefit for some cannabis-derived products in some medical conditions, we are also recommending that urgent clinical trials be carried out to better improve our understanding of these products.”
As the understanding of the potential therapeutic uses of cannabis-derived products is still developing, the ACMD recommends that clinical trials urgently take place to further establish the safety and effectiveness of different products.
The ACMD has also recommended that synthetic cannabinoids, which are found in street products such as Spice, remain in Schedule 1 pending a longer term review by the ACMD.
Sir Mike Penning said: “This is another massive step in allowing patients access to what for many will be a life changing medicine.
“I commend the Government for the swiftness of its review of this vital area, and both Dame Sally Davies and now the ACMD for the speed with which they have come forward with their recommendations to reschedule.
“There’s still work to do in terms of defining which products will be available on prescription and how they will be approved. This marks the dawn of a whole new era for medical cannabis in the UK.”