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Medicinal Cannabis

Volume 716: debated on Tuesday 14 June 2022

On 1 November 2018 this Government changed the law to allow the prescription of cannabis-based products for medicinal use by a specialist when clinically appropriate. Licensed cannabis-based medicines such as Sativex and Epidiolex are routinely available on the NHS.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer, particularly as she mentioned 2018, because it was of course her boss, the Secretary of State for Health, who was the pioneer in all this when he was Home Secretary. But there is a “but” coming, and it is that young children are not getting this vital medicine on the NHS. Some are having to pay £2,000 a month, and in the last three years only three prescriptions have been issued on the NHS. How can we improve the situation?

My hon. Friend has been campaigning on this issue for a long time, particularly on the tragic case of his constituent, Vicky Clarke. I have met the all-party parliamentary group on medical cannabis under prescription and we have had debates on the issue in this place and in Westminster Hall. The key is to get those products licensed, and we have been in discussion with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency on how to do this. It is about gathering the evidence base. I am pleased to say that NHS England and the National Institute for Health and Care Research have recently announced two clinical randomised controlled trials to try to build that evidence base to get more of these products licensed.

The lack of evidence on the quality, safety and efficiency of cannabis-based products for medical use is the main barrier to their being prescribed by NHS clinicians, which is why the SNP continues to support the development of clinical trials. Without proper funding, the UK Government are holding back potential successful health outcomes, so what steps are they taking to increase the priority of medicinal cannabis in research funding?

I met the responsible Scottish Minister in April to discuss this issue. There is not a lack of funding. The National Institute for Health and Care Research has funding available but we are not seeing bids, so this is a plea to the clinicians, researchers and groups for those to come forward. The NHRA is also happy to meet any groups considering undertaking clinical research to ensure that it is the type of research that will provide the evidence they need to licence these products.