The United Kingdom’s National Health Service has only issued three prescriptions for medical cannabis oil since it was legalized for use with the national health care plan two years ago, according to End Our Pain – a pro-medical cannabis group. The group told the BBC that at least 20 families are paying out-of-pocket for the drug after they were turned down by the NHS.
In 2019, cannabis-derived pharmaceutical drugs Sativex and Epidyolex were approved for the NHS but neither are full-spectrum cannabinoid products and some say the latter doesn’t effectively control seizures like products that contain trace amounts of THC. One parent told the BBC that the medicine costs £2,000 ($2,582) per month.
The Department for Health and Social Care said Epidoylex could be prescribed on the NHS because there was clear “safety [and] clinical” evidence and it was cost-effective.
Hannah Deacon, whose son Alfie Dingley is one of the two to receive the drug via the NHS said it was “not fair” that the agency has only issued prescriptions to families that have received “media attention.”
“We feel very blessed. It’s changed our lives and it should be available to everyone. … Why on earth should [families] have to try and find the money to pay for it?” – Deacon to the BBC
Last month, Billy Caldwell – the boy who became the face of medical cannabis in the U.K. – received his first bottle of the cannabis oil after a two-year fight with the NHS which included a legal battle in the Northern Irish High Court.
In July, the NHS indicated plans to manufacture medical cannabis products itself and said that it had reviewed a clinical trial design for medical cannabis as potential use as a treatment for epilepsy. In August, the agency announced a trial of the Medipen, a CBD vaporizer.