UK patients are being denied access to cannabis-based treatments because there is a “lack of evidence about the long term safety and effectiveness of medicinal cannabis,” according to an official report.
Despite becoming legal to do so in November last year, very few cannabis medicines have been prescribed in the UK, as doctors and health bodies remain concerned over their effects.
This reticence from the National Health Service (NHS) has led some parents of children with epilepsies to source medications from other countries, which are then seized at UK airports.
But in its new report, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE, an advisory health body to the NHS) stated that the research supporting cannabis as an epilepsy treatment is “limited and of low quality,” and so it “did not warrant a practice recommendation.”
Going against guidance
The draft guidance also considered whether to recommend cannabis medications for patients living with nausea from chemotherapy, chronic pain, and spasticity. And while the authority approved of the cannabis-based drug nabilone for nausea treatment if conventional medicines had no effect, it rejected all cannabis medications used to treat chronic pain and spasticity.
However, one of the most comprehensive scientific reviews ever undertaken into medical cannabis concluded in 2017 that there was enough evidence to support treatment in all three areas: to reduce nausea from chemotherapy, to treat chronic pain, and to reduce spasms from multiple sclerosis.