In 2018, medical cannabis was authorised under UK legislation, allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis-based medications in certain circumstances. These cannabis-based drugs are used to treat a wide range of illnesses, including back pain, arthritis, and anxiety, where patients have already tried standard treatments that failed to fully relieve the symptoms or produced intolerable secondary effects. Data from medical cannabis programs in Europe and the United States suggest that self-reported pain conditions are the reason behind up to 90% of cannabis authorisations.
Fighting Pain Since the 90s
While this scientific field of research was expanding in the 90s, the therapeutic potential for cannabis, alongside prohibition of possession, became a source of legal challenges led by patients in several countries. These efforts ultimately gave rise to compassionate access programs in Holland, Canada, and Israel, which used various regulatory mechanisms to exempt bona fide patients from prosecution for cannabis possession and authorised cannabis cultivation programs to provide access to quality-controlled and standardised cannabis-based products. In the United States, 22 states have passed citizen initiatives and referendums to allow the medical use of cannabis, despite federal resistance and a refusal to remove cannabis from Schedule 1, where marijuana is deemed to have no medical value and to be too dangerous for use even under medical supervision.
Patients vs Pain
It is moving to see that patients’ efforts have become one of the key drivers of cannabinoid pharmaceuticals development and legalization for medical purposes across many parts of the world.
Leading the way in safely prescribing medical cannabis in the UK, Sapphire Medical was the first clinic to be granted approval by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to operate in England and takes care of thousands of patients. Since the COVID pandemic, Sapphire has been able to provide telemedicine appointments to patients in England and the current approval granted by HIS allows doctors to carry out medical consultations both face-to-face and through telemedicine in Scotland too.
Suzie Marshall, a 48-year-old bank employee, diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, became the first patient to receive a consultation at Sapphire Medical Clinic in Stirling, Scotland.
Additionally, Carl Holvey, Sapphire’s chief pharmacist, states that, in the case of chronic pain, there is “good clinical evidence” to show cannabis efficacy, but the problem is the cost of this treatment, which is not covered by the NHS.
“We are working to gather real-world evidence and clinical data to support the use of these medicines. Hopefully, the data will be used by the authorities to develop the knowledge base to show these medicines are effective—and cost-effective—so they can be used on the NHS,” Holvey claimed.