Most patients and parents are required to pay out-of-pocket to treat symptoms relieved by cannabis
A group of cannabis advocates marched through Westminster and descended upon Downing Street this week in the hopes of convincing the government to ensure that medical cannabis is both accessible and affordable.
The drug was legalized in the UK for medical purposes late last year, but guidelines from the country’s National Health Service (NHS, the UK’s universal healthcare provider) preclude physicians from prescribing it — aside from a few widely-publicized exceptions. Most patients and parents are required to pay out-of-pocket to treat symptoms relieved by cannabis.
Edinburgh mother Karen Gray says she has spent nearly £10,000 of her own money to acquire cannabis from the Netherlands for her young son, who suffers from myoclonic astatic epilepsy.
She and other parents in the same situation, who say they have spent a total of £231,000 collectively on their children’s medical cannabis, served up an invoice for reimbursement to the Department of Health.
They then continued to Downing Street to demand that the government take measures to ensure the accessibility and affordability of medical cannabis for UK residents who need it, especially children.
Six months ago, the same parent group had a meeting with Health Secretary Matt Hancock to relay their struggles in treating their children and obtaining their medication. The group says that Hancock has yet to act.
Despite last year’s medical legalization, cannabis — even for medical purposes — remains heavily stigmatized in the UK.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) decided that the drug should not be administered in the treatment of chronic pain or multiple sclerosis, to the ire of patients in need and their families.
Although patients, activists and MPs such as Christine Jardine have joined the group in pressuring Hancock to make good on the pledges made in the presence of the parent group, the NHS has so far opted to stick with the ruling.
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Written by Emma Spears