Hemel Hempstead MP condemns lack of movement on prescription of medicinal cannabis

NHS rules only permit the prescription of medicinal cannabis when all other ‘treatment options have been exhausted’

Friday, 10th September 2021, 10:18 am

The MP for Hemel Hempstead Sir Mike Penning has spoken in a debate on access to medicinal cannabis on the NHS.

Three years ago, he was instrumental in securing the backing of Parliament and the then Prime Minister Theresa May in making the use of medicinal cannabis legal to treat conditions such as rare forms of epilepsy in children.

Sir Mike met with campaigner Hannah Deacon, whose son Alfie Dingley’s seizures had dramatically improved with medicinal cannabis that she had obtained from Holland. Sir Mike introduced Hannah, and Alfie, to the then Prime Minister.

Sir Mike Penning condemns lack of movement on prescription of medicinal cannabis

As a result of that campaign, the drug was moved to a different schedule in UK legislation and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published guidance which should have made it possible for NHS doctors to prescribe it.

However, at the moment NHS rules only permit the prescription of medicinal cannabis when all other ‘treatment options have been exhausted’ and where ‘clinically appropriate’ without clearly defining what this means.

Also, many doctors are not keen on prescribing drugs they know little about.

In order to be classed as a medicine, medicinal cannabis must be produced to specific standards.

But most products are still unlicensed because they haven’t been subjected to long-term safety trials. It has also not been determined which conditions medical cannabis can be used for, and at what dose.

As a result, only Alfie and two others have so far received NHS prescriptions. The families of other children with this very rare condition are forced to go to extreme lengths to raise funding to procure the drug.

Speaking afterwards, Sir Mike said: “It is very frustrating. Many doctors are reluctant to prescribe medicinal cannabis as long-term safety trials are still outstanding, but for that some patients will need to be put on placebos to be able to compare it with the medicinal cannabis drug.

"No parent is going to risk their child being in the group that are given a placebo – even for a trial – when they know medicinal cannabis works and stops these horrible life-threatening seizures.

“It is clearly the will of Parliament to make this happen. There is cross-party support from all corners of the UK. Other countries are moving forward with this. We need to make it happen here.”