Why doctors need cannabis education

Speaking at Cannabis Europa’s Madrid event, LYPHE Group’s Head of Patient Access Hannah Deacon brought up an issue that sadly remains a crucial factor in the limited number of medical cannabis prescriptions being issued in the UK, despite it being over a year since medical cannabis was legalised. This issue is a lack of medical cannabis education for doctors. Speaking on this, Hannah Deacon put this point forward:

“For me, I think the problem in the UK is educating doctors, because doctors are very frightened. [For] all the patients I work with, all the doctors are saying to them ‘I can see this is working, this is fantastic, your child hasn’t been in hospital for six months, but I’m not allowed to prescribe’.”

The background context

The UK legalised medicinal cannabis back in 2018 when cannabis was rescheduled to a Schedule Two substance, highlighting its medical efficacy in certain circumstances. However, only doctors on the General Medical Council’s Specialist Register were allowed to prescribe these medicines for a limited group of patients in a severely limited number of circumstances. 

Then, last year, two cannabis-based drugs (Epidyolex and Sativex) were approved by NICE for use on the NHS. While many initially thought this would open the doors for increased medical cannabis prescription throughout the UK, this move didn’t seem to provide enough reassurance for many, as these medicines were only explicitly recommended by NICE for the treatment of those suffering from a limited number of medical conditions. As the guidance of NICE is often taken as gospel in the medical community, these recommendations were enough to dissuade specialists from prescribing for many other conditions that they may have originally been keen to offer medical cannabis treatment for.  

Upon closer inspection of the NICE guidelines though, it becomes clear that NICE aren’t closed off to doctors prescribing for multiple conditions, in fact they are clear about this in their guidelines manual:

Healthcare and other professionals are expected to take NICE clinical guidelines fully into account when exercising their clinical judgement. However, the guidance does not override the responsibility of healthcare professionals and others to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of each patient, in consultation with the patient and/or their guardian or carer.”

Ms. Deacon, as an advocate in full understanding of the legislation in the UK and aware of the ability of specialists to exercise their clinical judgement to prescribe for patients, addressed this issue at the Madrid event when she stated that:

“We’ve got some of the most progressive legislation in the UK, a registered consultant can prescribe for any indication at all, so it’s very, very liberal if they feel that there’s enough evidence to do that – the problem is that they’re being told that there isn’t [any evidence]. That’s very frustrating … There is a lot of evidence. There is a lot of research happening. And at the moment in the UK, they’re saying ‘well there isn’t, there’s no research’, which we know isn’t true. … I do think the key is [the] education of doctors, because at the moment they’re not happy to prescribe because they don’t understand the product.”

How can doctors get the education they need then?

At The Medical Cannabis Clinics, we agree with Hannah that a lack of education around cannabis is preventing many patients in the UK from getting the medical cannabis treatment they need. This is why education is essential.  

Working in partnership with The Academy of Medical Cannabis, we have amassed a team of skilled specialists who have been specifically trained on the medical efficacy of the cannabis plant, the evidence around its use and how to prescribe products. Once this training is complete, these clinicians can begin prescribing with us at our clinics across the country. It’s clear to see then that through education like this, we can really start getting patients the medical cannabis care they’re looking for.  

To sign up to attend one of The Academy of Medical Cannabis’ face-to-face training sessions led by Professor Mike Barnes click here, and to find out more about becoming a patient with us at The Medical Cannabis Clinics click here

We only recommend taking cannabis-based products following a consultation with a medical professional, and do not advise patients on the recreational use of any cannabis-based products. 

At The Medical Cannabis Clinics, our GMC registered specialists will identify the appropriate cannabis medicine care plan and products for patients following a comprehensive assessment which includes an in-depth evaluation of the main symptoms being targeted, current medications, pattern of symptoms and lifestyle factors such as safety-sensitive occupations. 

They will also monitor and adjust the medication on a regular basis to ensure the best effect with the fewest side effects. There is also a carefully designed process in place to monitor patients’ well-being, with follow-up appointments after a week and then every month, for three months after receiving a prescription.

To register for treatment with our specialists click here

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