Q: Is this legalising recreational cannabis? 

A: Absolutely not. We are talking about pharmaceutical medicines prescribed by doctors and manufactured in line with very strict healthcare regulations.


Q: Is this a relaxation of the current law?

A: No- cannabis-based medicines were legalised in 2018 for doctors’ prescriptions. We are seeking regulatory certainty and clarification to bring enforcement in line with established controlled substances such as opioids when used in the medical supply chain, consistent with the legislation.


Q: Are we talking about CBD products?

A: No – those are generally nutraceuticals or supplements bought over-the-counter. While CBD can have real therapeutical value for certain conditions, we are focused on prescription medicines.


Q: Are cannabis-based medicines safe and effective?

A: Cannabis-based medicines have an established safety profile with fewer and less severe side effects to comparable medicines, such as opioids. Cannabis-based medicines can be effective for a range of medical conditions (e.g. chronic pain, epilepsy, autism), and there is a growing body of clinical and real world evidence to support this.


Q: Does this come with a cost to the taxpayer? 

A: The BPA are not seeking direct funding or financial support from the government; simply regulatory and policy clarifications, and a positive outlook towards the industry. Regulatory certainty will encourage investment and innovation in this space, with benefits to the broader economy and the public finances.


Q: Why can’t GPs currently prescribe these medicines?

A: Misuse of drugs legislation requires a physician on the Specialist Register to prescribe cannabis-based medicines. Many GPs wish to prescribe these medicines, but current legislation makes this difficult. However, we believe that with proper training we believe that GP prescribing will be effective, just as we have seen in Australia.


Q: The government have said more clinical trials need to take place – is there enough of an evidence base to demonstrate the effectiveness of cannabis-based medicines?

A: There is a growing body of clinical and real-world evidence around cannabinoids, and widespread prescription in countries such as Germany and Australia. Members of the British Phytomedicines Alliance are conducting clinical trials, for example in chronic pain and autism. However, clinical trials for an approved medicine are a lengthy and costly process, typically requiring over 10 years and hundreds of millions; they also typically focus on a very specific condition.

While pursuing this track, the BPA are also highly focused on getting cost-effective and high quality medicines to patients today, for a variety of urgent clinical needs through the existing regulatory framework for CBPMs. (‘cannabis-based products for medicinal use’)


Q: Are cannabis-based medicines widely available in other countries?

A: Yes. Countries around the world are legalising cannabis-based medicines, with substantial growth in markets such as Germany (c.170,000 patients) and Australia (over 200,000 patients). Whilst the UK are world leaders in research and innovation, we are lagging behind on the availability of these medicines.


Q: How much demand is there for cannabis-based medicines?

 A: A recent YouGov survey (2022) suggested there are approximately 1.8 million people currently self-medicating for chronic health conditions, using illicit cannabis. However, the unmet medical need is substantially larger than this, for example a patient population of 9.3 million in UK with moderate to severely disabling chronic pain with limited existing treatment options. [1] It is clear that there is huge unmet demand for cannabis-based medicines.


Q: Are these medicines expensive?

A: Our goal with UK production is to make these medicines much more affordable for patients, and gather the data through clinical trials to demonstrate that reimbursement on the NHS will be cost-effective. Moreover, the conditions that are treatable with cannabis-based medicines are hugely costly to the UK: chronic pain costs the UK an estimated £10bn per annum, and there are now 2.5 million people in the UK out of work due to ill health (especially pain and mental health related).


Q: Do cannabis-based medicines cause psychosis?

A: No. Although studies have shown a correlation between the excessive use of street cannabis amongst young people and first instances of psychotic events [2], studies have also shown that there is no increase in incidents of psychosis in countries that have made cannabis-based medicines legal and available. [3]
Some cannabis-based medicines are used in the treatment of psychosis. The University of Oxford is currently conducting an international trial that was awarded £16.5 million by Wellcome on the efficacy of a CBD-based medicine in treating psychosis and psychotic symptoms. [4]