In an announcement made on the 11th of October 2018, the Home Office has formalised the rescheduling of cannabis-based medicines, such as CBD oils. The announcement stated that cannabis-based medicines will be available on prescription from the 1st November from specialist clinicians.
These medicines will be available to patients who are considered to have an exceptional need with no restrictions on the types of conditions that can be considered for the treatment. Until now, doctors have been forced to apply for a licence from an expert panel to prescribe cannabis-based medicines in exceptional cases, which will change as of November 1st when they are given the sole responsibility.
For those with epilepsy, this is a huge step that demonstrates a changing attitude towards the potential of cannabis-based medicines, in particular, their ability to help manage seizures. However, it must be stressed that these medicines will not simply be made available to everyone with epilepsy. Prescriptions will be made on a case-by-case basis and only where it’s found that licensed medicines have failed.
The change in law has come under much pressure form families who have children with severe epilepsy, such as the cases of Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell. Both sets of parents were adamant that CBD oils were instrumental in the management of their children’s seizures and fought to have them reclassified. It would seem the Home Office after conducting their own research is inclined to agree, which has led to the landmark change.
It is expected that in the coming weeks the British Paediatric Neurology Association (BPNA), NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DoHSC) will release a series of guidelines and advice to provide specialists with the tools they will need to prescribe the medications effectively.
Finally, the statement was clear in that this was not a step towards the legalisation of recreational marijuana. It simply means that medicines that list the CBD element of the plant will no longer be classified under schedule 1.
Understandably, many with epilepsy will be eager to try this new medication in the hope that it can help to improve their condition. However, as previously stated, it will not be made available for everyone and will be at the discretion of specialist clinicians.
People with epilepsy should consult with their specialist and discuss whether it might be a suitable treatment option. We would wholeheartedly discourage anybody from seeking out these types of medications unless instructed and prescribed from a healthcare professional, such as a neurologist.