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Cannabis-derived medicines available on prescription from November

RPS: Pharmacists will be on the frontline of supplying these products
RPS: Pharmacists will be on the frontline of supplying these products

Pharmacists will be able to dispense cannabis-derived products prescribed by “specialist doctors” from November, the home secretary has announced.

The rescheduling of cannabis-derived medicinal products from schedule 1 to schedule 2 under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 was laid before parliament yesterday (October 11).

From November 1, “specialist doctors” such as neurologists or paediatricians on the General Medical Council’s specialist register, will legally be able to issue prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines, home secretary Sajid Javid said.

GPs will not be able to prescribe these products, the Home Office stressed.

“The new law will not limit the types of conditions that can be considered for treatment and doctors will no longer need to seek approval from an expert panel in order for patients to access medicines.”

However, the products must only be prescribed “when the patient has an unmet special clinical need that cannot be met by licensed products”, it added.

Mr Javid made the move following an urgent review into the rescheduling of cannabis for medicinal use in June. The rescheduling “does not pave the way towards legalising cannabis for recreational use”, the Home Office stressed yesterday.

RPS: “Genuinely exciting”

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Ash Soni said the rescheduling is “genuinely exciting” and “will be welcomed by many patients with a range of serious health conditions”.

Over 89% of 1,690 pharmacist respondents to the RPS’s survey in July agreed with the move, the society said.

“Pharmacists will be on the frontline of supplying these cannabis-based medicinal products and can give advice to patients on how to take them as part of their treatment plan,” Mr Soni added.

“Robust governance needs to be in place around prescribing and dispensing and pharmacists have a key role to play in ensuring this is in place across health systems.”

The government has commissioned the National Institute for health and Care Excellence to develop more detailed guidelines for clinicians.

How do you feel about dispensing cannabis-based products to patients?

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

Weed ? Weed ? I mean spliffs !? common guys its weed! Am not so sure that dispensing weed will not bring the proffesion into disrepute ???? 

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

[Pedant mode] As long as it's not in Schedule 1 and not in the blacklist, anything that doesn't have a CE mark (making it a medicinal device) can be prescribed on the NHS.  I hope those outside of specialist neurology/pain clinics wouldn't dream of considering it, there's nothing stopping them do it...

Andrew Martin, Primary care pharmacist

This is an interesting question: it is clear from the above that only those doctors on the GMC's Specialist Register can legally prescribe this so if you get a script from the GP down the road (or indeed any FP10 at all), what you gonna do...?

Really? Wow, Superintendent Pharmacist

Specialist doctor does not necessarily mean on the Specialist Register... there are GP's who run methadone clinics for example.. It's a huge grey are that will put us at huge risk and in a position where we cannot do our jobs to any degree. 

Are these going to be licensed as medicines? Is this going to be a new dawn in medicine licensing, where no controlled trials are required? Will the MHRA be issuing a PL for these? Will they be doing interaction studies? 

Answers on a postcard to.... 

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Is it the dispensing pharmacist's job to decide upon the competence of the prescriber? Or just upon the clinical appropriateness of the medicine(s) prescribed for that patient? Given a dispensing pharmacist isn't required to check a clinical management plan for a supplementary prescriber, I'd argue that there isn't.

Any qualified prescriber can prescribe any medicine for any condition, licensed or otherwise, with the exception of dipipanone, diamorphine and cocaine for addiction.

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