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DH lifts import restrictions to improve access to cannabis medicines

Wholesalers can now import larger quantities of cannabis-based medical products for future use
Wholesalers can now import larger quantities of cannabis-based medical products for future use

Wholesalers will be able to hold stocks of cannabis-based medicines for future supply, ready for pharmacies to order for patients with prescriptions, the DH has announced.

Most cannabis-based medicines are imported from overseas, and wholesalers will now be able to import and store “larger quantities of cannabis-based products”, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) announced on Monday (March 2).

This will allow patients to receive their medication in a matter of days, when they could previously have had to wait months for export certificates to be produced and the drug to reach the UK from overseas, the DH said.

Safeguards against the misuse of drugs mean patients who are prescribed unlicensed medicines, like medical cannabis, have their script reviewed every 30 days by specialist doctors.

This can lead to delays in treatment if importing takes weeks or months, the DH added.

“Working with industry”

The change in import restrictions is a “tremendous step towards improving the supply of cannabis-based products by helping to ensure quicker and more reliable access for patients”, health secretary Matt Hancock said.

This change follows an amendment of the law in October 2018  that allowed specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis-based medicines where clinically appropriate in the UK.

The DH said the government is “working with industry to explore further ways to reduce costs and encourage more research” into the uninterrupted access of cannabis-based products, it said.

Last November two cannabis-based medicines, Epidyolex and Sativex, were the first to be recommended by the National Institute of health and Care Excellence (Nice) for use by the NHS in England.

Nice guidance recommends oromucosal spray Sativex for the treatment of moderate-to-severe spasticity in adults with multiple sclerosis (MS), and Epidyolex oral solution for children with two forms of severe epilepsy.

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