Both I and my Parliamentary colleagues are aware of cases where cannabis-based medicine is successfully treating constituents with very specific conditions and in very exceptional circumstances. I understand that, particularly for parents whose children are suffering or in pain, there is continued frustration that it is not easily accessible. Although the scheduling of cannabis-based products changed in 2018, this has not translated into significant clinical use.
Each case is judged individually, and the decision should remain solely with the clinician. However, many doctors remain cautious in prescribing these treatments, and guidelines published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence demonstrate a need for more evidence to justify routine prescribing of unlicensed cannabis-based products. With that in mind, it is encouraging to hear of 13 ongoing trials in the UK, and six other trials already completed. Additionally, two new clinical trials into treating refractory epilepsy are being developed by the National Institute for Health Research and NHS England. I look forward to the results of these trials in due course.
The number of patients with NHS prescriptions for medicinal cannabis products is low. Often families have sought private treatment, which is clearly a serious financial burden. While the Government cannot stipulate what companies charge for the products, and these companies may face export or import fees for controlled drugs, I am aware of Ministers’ work within these constraints to reduce costs. Many believe medical cannabis, where clinically appropriate, is critical for patients and families in need, and I am assured that the Government is considering every possibility to ensure greater access.
Of course, there is a substantial body of scientific and medical evidence to show that cannabis itself, can harm mental and physical health and damage communities.