Desktop guide to medicinal cannabis

PRACTICAL advice on the availability and use of medicinal cannabis has been published by the RCGP.

Cannabis-based medicines: an interim desktop guide offers guidance following the recent change in UK legislation governing access to cannabis for medicinal use. Doctors with the relevant specialist knowledge/expertise and registered on the GMC's specialist register can now prescribe cannabis-based products to patients in situations where there is an “unmet clinical need”.

Cannabis is a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 2001. However, two forms of cannabis-based products - Sativex and Nabilone - can now be legally prescribed. Cannabidiol (CBD) is also legally available as herbal supplement and is not a prescription medicine.

The new RCGP guidance recognises that the legal change may lead to "increased demand on GPs for information and referrals for a range of conditions".

The guide provides an overview of the current legal situation regarding medicinal cannabis, the different forms available and the conditions for which there is clinical evidence of benefit, along with potential side-effects. The guidance also includes signposting to further resources for GPs and patients, with FAQs.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP, said: "The decision to legalise medicinal cannabis for some patients, where there is an evidence-base that it could benefit them, is welcome.

"However, the treatments that have become legal are only able to be prescribed by specialist doctors if they have a patient with an unmet clinical need – and so it will affect a relatively small number of patients, many of whom will likely already be known by their specialist doctor.

"GPs will not be able to prescribe patients medicinal cannabis, but as the first point of contact for the vast majority of patients in the NHS it is important that we are aware of the legal situation and current clinical evidence around medicinal cannabis."