Draft NICE guidelines will prevent patients from accessing medical cannabis on the NHS

“There are hundreds of thousands of people using cannabis-based medicines across the world and it’s having an enormously positive impact on their health.  The UK is insisting on reinventing the wheel for no reason – and the people who are suffering are patients.  I’m extremely disappointed.”

Hannah Deacon, Patient Advocacy Specialist, The Medical Cannabis Clinics

Last year, the Chief Medical Officer and the Government’s independent drug advisors recommended the UK Government legalises cannabis for medical use.  This is aligned to recommendations by the World Health Organization to do this on an international stage.  In November 2018, the Health and Home Secretaries acknowledged the evidence on the transformative potential of cannabis for people living with a range of chronic conditions.  Recognising the suffering that could be alleviated for hundreds of thousands of people with unmet medical needs, they changed the law.

But nine months since, not only have patients been denied the treatment they need on the NHS but this month the cost-effectiveness watchdog – NICE – has also contradicted the advice of the country’s leading medical counsel.

In its interim guidance, NICE concludes that medical cannabis should not be prescribed for three of only four conditions it considered: severe epilepsy, spasticity in multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.  This is despite significant international evidence to the contrary, and the experiences of people like the son of our Patient Advocacy Specialist, seven-year-old Alfie Dingley.  Before his treatment with cannabis oil, Alfie suffered up to 500 life-threatening seizures as a result of his severe epilepsy.  Now, his seizures are controlled, he has had only one hospital admission in a year, and he has a better quality of life.

We believe everyone deserves this quality of life.  That is why we launched The Medical Cannabis Clinics: to enable people living with chronic and debilitating conditions to benefit from the treatment they need and deserve.  While the NHS and NICE restricts access to medical cannabis, our world-leading clinicians in chronic pain, neurology and psychiatry stand ready to provide access to the treatment the Government has legislated to deliver.

But it shouldn’t be this way.  We are calling on NICE to revise its recommendations ahead of its final publication in October.  If you, like us, believe that NICE should enable people with unmet medical needs to access medical cannabis on the NHS, we urge you to respond to the consultation on the draft NICE guidelines before the 5 September deadline.  You can access the consultation document online here: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/indevelopment/gid-ng10124/consultation/html-content-2.

Together we will transform access to medical cannabis in the UK.

“The draft guidelines are very disappointing but sadly predictable.  The NICE Committee has relied solely on the pharmaceutical model of randomised controlled trials which is not an appropriate methodology for the assessment of cannabis efficacy.”

Professor Mike Barnes, consultant neurologist and Clinical Director, The Medical Cannabis Clinics

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