Despite UK doctors being legally able to prescribe medical cannabis since November 1st 2018, patients still struggle to access cannabis medicines, according to a new report launched at Davos by legal cannabis expert, Prohibition Partners. Yet against this challenging environment, the report forecasts the UK's medicinal cannabis market could soar in value in 2019 as patient access is widened.
The European Cannabis Report™ 4th Edition, the most comprehensive study undertaken on the region's market, found the absence of professional medical education around prescribing cannabis has created a barrier for the fledgling UK market. Although the law has changed, doctors and healthcare professionals are playing catch up as formal educational programmes have not yet been established.
Treatment is also cost-prohibitive. Carly Barton, who suffers chronic pain from fibromyalgia, became the first UK resident to receive a medicinal cannabis prescription - but her treatment is not covered by the NHS and costs £10,000 per year.
Stephen Murphy, Co-Founder of Prohibition Partners, explains: "A lack of educational infrastructure and prohibitive costs are impeding UK patient access to potentially transformative cannabis medicines. NHS doctors have little guidance on how to prescribe cannabis and many won't do it because they lack the infrastructure to support them should something go wrong. They are unlikely to prescribe cannabis for conditions other than those listed, notably chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, HIV and AIDS, epilepsy, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis. These factors have slowed medicinal cannabis use and pushed patients into the black market."
Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs of the MS Society, recently voiced concern that, as far as the Society was aware, no patient with multiple sclerosis has been able to access cannabis-based medicine since the law changed. In response, NHS England has established a system to monitor the prescribing of cannabis-based products, with the first data expected by the end of March 2019.
Murphy says: "The legalisation of prescription cannabis has given people with chronic illnesses a glimmer of hope. Increased data and better education services for healthcare professionals will improve access rates and drive down cost, but progress is slow."
Nevertheless, the report predicts the UK's medicinal cannabis market is poised to take off in the medium-term. According to the findings, the UK medicinal cannabis market has the potential to be worth some £10m this year but without obstacles to growth, the market could be worth in excess of £1bn by 2022.
The World Health Organisation is reassessing the legal status of cannabis and European Union Committees are looking at how to regulate the market internationally. Moreover, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance, due in October 2019, will examine the effectiveness and safety of cannabis-based medicinal products.
Murphy says: "This wave of change supports the report's valuation forecasts, and longer term, we will undoubtedly see restrictions lifted in the UK and across Europe, opening up the market and fuelling unprecedented growth."
Positive experiences of cannabis-related treatments are also filtering through. A recent survey by the United Patients Alliance found more than three quarters of patients with problems including depression, anxiety, pain and spasms saw significant improvements in their condition with cannabis use.
About Prohibition Partners
Founded in 2017, Prohibition Partners was established with a mission to provide cutting edge information and business intelligence on the international cannabis industry. Our team provide data, insights and strategic consultancy for this emerging frontier. We work with regulators, entrepreneurs and investors to identify and execute opportunities in the international cannabis market.