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Accessing Private Prescriptions for Cannabis Medicines

c pass - April 19, 2020 - 0 comments

Our industry colleagues have developed this step-by-step guide for patients to help them navigate the private systems for access to cannabis medicines in the United Kingdom.

Important things to know before we begin

  • Currently, only specialist doctors can prescribe cannabis medicines. Your GP can refer you to a relevant specialist.
  • Patients in receipt of a prescription for cannabis medicines will be required to undertake follow up consultations every 28 days so that their prescriber can assess their progress. As part of a ‘shared-care agreement’ these follow up consultations can, at a certain point, be done by your NHS GP.
  • Prescribed cannabis medicines come in a variety of forms. Currently these are mostly “raw” cannabis flowers (administered via a vaporiser) and sublingual oils (administered under the tongue) or sprays.
  • Other than via healthcare systems and over-the-counter CBD products, all other sources of cannabis remain illegal in the UK.
  • There are distinct advantages to going through the private system when compared to the black market. These include controlled quality of medicines, consistent supply, legality and doctor oversight. Patients can also opt to report their experiences in order to improve the current data on these medicines and may be offered the chance to participate in clinical trials via these systems as well.
  • More medicines are becoming available all the time and prices are coming down significantly. It is possible things may have changed since you last considered a private prescription. Even if you have assessed the situation and decided it will not work for you, it may be worth reassessing every few months to see how things have changed.

Step 1 – Getting a Referral

Step 2 – Booking your Consultation 

  • A private referral can be used at any private clinic licensed to prescribe medicinal cannabis with any doctor in the relevant specialism.
  • Alternatively, there are now a number of clinics open around the UK that specialise in cannabis medicines. The doctors working in these clinics are well-informed and will likely have more experience prescribing cannabis medicines than other doctors.

We have provided a full list of these ‘cannabis clinics’ contact numbers below. We have not printed the name or any branding and these clinics contact details are listed alphabetically to avoid any preferential treatment.

  • Cost may differ per clinic and there should be a conversation about your eligibility based on the referral form or the information you provide when calling directly. We recommend patients speak to all clinics to assess which is most appropriate for their needs before booking a consultation.

    Patients should confirm that the clinic in question has a prescriber in the relevant specialism. Patients are also advised to enquire about the price of consultations as this can vary for different clinics. Make sure you understand the long-term costs of your monthly consultations before making your first booking.
  • If your specialist doctor or GP wants to learn more about medicinal cannabis and how the system works in the UK, please direct them to our contact details at the end of this guide. Alternately, this is a useful link for education and support for all prescribers: 

Step 3 – At Your Consultation

  • This will work much like any other medical consultation. The doctor will assess your health and your medical needs and will make a decision on whether or not cannabis medicines are the appropriate treatment for you.
  • It is important to divulge any prior use of cannabis so that the doctor has all relevant information in order to make the best decision for you.
  • If the decision is made that cannabis medicine may be of benefit, you and your doctor will need to decide which medicine is right for you. Once this is decided the doctor can write you a prescription.
  • With the advent of Covid-19, many clinics are introducing video or phone consultations to assess patients remotely.

Step 4 – Your Prescription

There should be three important pieces of information on your prescription: 

  • The form of the medicine; this might be “flowers” or “sublingual oil”. 
  • The THC and CBD quantity per gram (if flowers) or per millilitre (if oil). 
  • Daily dose and total required amount for 28 days supply.

You can take your prescription to any pharmacy or follow the guidance from the clinic of the prescribing doctor. They will be able to tell you what pharmacy will be able to order your medication and which pharmacy charges least for dispensing and delivering your medication.

There is no requirement for the prescriber to write the brand name of the medicine on the prescription, doing so may limit a patient’s ability to find the right medicine for them.

Step 5 – The Pharmacy

There are multiple suppliers that may be able to supply your prescription. They act as the dispensing pharmacy, but they do not have a shop-floor you can visit. Instead, they courier medicines direct to patients or to their nominated pharmacy.

It is likely your clinic or doctor will be able to advise or will arrange the supply of your medicine for you.

In most cases, the supplier will call you to take payment before delivering the medicine to you asap. The pharmacy will be able to give you an idea of the time between your payment and delivery. It is usually around 1-5 days.

Step 6 – Next Steps

If you have been successfully issued a prescription you will need to book an appointment for your next consultation in 28 days time. This will ensure a consistent supply of your medicine going forward.

There is no obligation to stay with the same physician or clinic, however, doing so may mean they are able to record and follow your progress more attentively.

Think of each consultation as a chance to reflect and discuss your progress with your prescriber. This is where you and your physician will assess your health and your progress with your medicine and make decisions on your treatment for the next 28 days. Cannabis medicines are relatively new in the UK and doctors will want to know the details of any positive or negative experiences you may have had whilst taking these medicines.

Cannabis medicines are often very personal in nature. This means that different people often require different amounts of the main active ingredients. Patients also respond differently to the different methods for taking these medicines. Sometimes it will take some time and you may try a few different medicines in order to find the right one for you, your symptoms and your lifestyle.

Your doctor will ensure that any changes to your medication are made in the safest way possible. You should feel free to contact your doctor or the supplying pharmacy at any point with any concerns you may have.

If you wish to discontinue your prescription for cannabis medicines you don’t need to do anything at all. If you have a consultation lined up, you should cancel it as soon as possible to avoid charges (although some doctors may also charge a cancellation fee).

If you would like to restart your prescription after a period without, it is likely easiest to contact the doctor who prescribed your most recent prescription for cannabis medicines and book an appointment with them.

Until you have had another appointment with a relevant specialist doctor to assess and re-issue your prescription you will not receive any more medication.

Download our Education Guide and resources for your toolkit, free here.

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