First private clinic promises 'fast-access' medical cannabis to Londoners
Its backers say it will offer a “lifeline” to patients suffering chronic pain or neurological conditions who are unable to access cannabis-derived medicines on the NHS.
The Medical Cannabis Clinics — London will be the second in the country to be opened by ECH (European Cannabis Holdings) Medical. In March it opened the UK’s first clinic in Cheadle, Greater Manchester.
Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK last year but is currently unlicensed, meaning it can only be prescribed by specialists or a GP acting under the instructions of one. Families say it is almost impossible to access it on the NHS, despite its legalisation.
Cases such as those of Billy Caldwell, 13, and Alfie Dingley, seven, have highlighted the benefits of cannabis oil to children with epilepsy who suffer multiple seizures.
The London clinic will not have a paediatric department at the outset. Appointments cost £200 and prescriptions will cost £600 to £700 a month. Former government drugs czar Professor David Nutt, of Imperial College London, told BMJ that “ignorance” of the value of cannabis medicines among doctors was holding back their use.
The Government says the evidence for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of medicinal cannabis is “embryonic”. A review of Nice guidelines, which determine whether the NHS should pay for it, is due to be published in the autumn.
The London clinic will have a GP who can assess patients and refer them to an on-site specialist with the power to approve a prescription. Cannabis treatments will be offered where conventional treatments have failed.
The clinic will offer “potentially life-changing” treatment for arthritis, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It may also benefit people with psychiatric conditions and stroke patients. More than 150 people are said to be on a waiting list.
Clinical director Professor Mike Barnes, the consultant neurologist who helped secure the first medicinal cannabis licence for Alfie Dingley, said: “This clinic will represent a lifeline to the thousands of patients who have found other treatments ineffective.”