According to a Care Quality Commission (CQC) publication, unlicensed medical cannabis prescribing in the private healthcare sector increased by 935% from 2020 to 2021 with 15 providers that offer unlicensed cannabis-based products for medicinal use registered and more being assessed.
The recent report “Safer management of controlled drugs: Annual update 2021” noted there were 37,634 items prescribed between January and November 2021 by non-National Health Service (NHS) healthcare services compared to 3,636 items prescribed between January and November 2020.
By contrast, over the same period of time, the NHS CBMPs prescribing in England was so low that data could not be reported. “The number of items prescribed within the NHS is so small that this could potentially affect patient confidentiality,” reads the report.
“Medicines licensed to cannabis-based drugs are routinely available on the NHS,” Pharmacy Minister Maria Caulfield said last April in response assessment has been made of the adequacy of access to medicinal cannabis for people who are eligible.
“However, clinical guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence demonstrate a clear need for more evidence to support routine prescribing and funding decisions for cannabis-based products not licensed for medicinal use,” Caulfield added. “Until that evidence base is built, prescribers will remain reluctant to prescribe and the NHS will not be able to make any routine funding decisions.”
Moreover, the National Institute for Health Research confirmed — in October 2020 — that despite a call for applications, no government-funded medical cannabis trials were taking place.
“Since 2020, we have seen an 846% growth in the number of patients accessing our specialist service,” said Simon Erridge, Head of Research and Access at Sapphire Medical Clinics related to the recent surge in CBMPs prescriptions.
“The prescription of unlicensed cannabis-based medicines through the NHS has not seen the same growth (…) the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published in 2019, that which did not show sufficient clinical benefit compared to the costs associated with these drugs,” Erridge concluded. “There is also a lack of randomized controlled trials demonstrating the efficacy of CBMPs compared to other licensed drugs.”