Pharmacy wholesalers are able to hold supplies of cannabis-based medicines for future use by patients who have prescriptions for those drugs under new measures that have been introduced by the Government.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said a change to import restrictions, which came into affect on Monday, will give patients access to treatments within days rather than months.
Under the new measures, wholesalers can import larger amounts of cannabis-based products and hold supplies for future use.
“Most cannabis-based medicines are imported from foreign countries. Export restrictions mean it can take weeks or months for the drugs to reach the patients in the UK,” the DHSC said.
“For example, in Canada, an export certificate can take four to eight weeks.
“In addition, safeguards against addiction and the misuse of drugs mean that patients with prescriptions for unlicensed medicines, such as medicinal cannabis, need to have their prescription reviewed every 30 days by specialist doctors.
“This can lead to delays in treatment if there are also delays to imports.”
A change in legislation in October 2018 allowed specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use where it is clinically appropriate.
Two cannabis-based medicines were recommended last year by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and certain epilepsies.
“Every time I meet the families of young people dealing so bravely with childhood epilepsy, I am reminded of just how much they have been through,” said Health secretary Matt Hancock (pictured).
“(These) changes made are a tremendous step towards improving the supply of cannabis-based medicinal products by helping to ensure quicker and more reliable access for patients.
“But we still have a long way to go. We need more research into the quality and safety of these medicines, and to do all we can to cut down the costs and remove barriers so that, when appropriate, patients can access it, including on the NHS.”