Can you get CBD on prescription?

by Tim W. Shaw January 25, 2021

Can you get CBD on prescription

CBD oil is available on prescription in the UK, but the process can be time consuming and expensive. The latest National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines have prevented the NHS from supplying anything but a small selection of licensed cannabis-based products.

However, the introduction of several private cannabis clinics means that a range of CBD and cannabis products can be prescribed if a specialist doctor believes it’s the only practical option.

What products are available?

In the UK, cannabis-based products for medicinal use in humans’ (CBPM) fall into two main categories.

Licensed CBPMs

These are medicines that have been trialled and approved by the MHRA for specified uses. There are three cannabis-based medicines licensed for use in the UK:

Epidiolex Sativex Cesamet
  • Epidyolex (aka epidiolex) - This is a pharmaceutical preparation of CBD designed for oral consumption. It has 100mg per ml, which is about 10%. The pure CBD is mixed with sesame oil, dehydrated alcohol, strawberry flavour and sucralose. Specialists can only prescribe Epidyolex for seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
  • Sativex – This is a mouth spray produced from cannabis with a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. A specialist can prescribe it for moderate to severe cases of the muscle stiffness caused by Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Nabilone – Also known as Cesamet, this is a synthetic cannabinoid that can be prescribed by a specialist if other medicines are unable to reduce the severity of the nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

Because these medicines are licensed, their use is strictly controlled. Unless you’re receiving specialist treatment for one of the conditions mentioned, you won’t get a prescription for them.

Unlicensed CBPMs

An unlicensed medicine hasn’t yet been through the authorisation process, or is being used for a different reason to that outlined in the license. Medications like this will only be prescribed after careful consideration by a multidisciplinary team of specialists. They must look at the evidence available and decide if an unlicensed medicine is the best option.

Despite the slightly worrying term ‘unlicensed’, these products are produced to strict MHRA standards and sourced from pharmaceutical companies. There may not be enough evidence to apply for a license, but they won’t be prescribed unless the prescriber has weighed up all the options.

Unlicensed cannabis-based medications available in the UK include:

CBD products
  • Cannabis flower
  • Hemp flower
  • Cannabis oil
  • CBD oil (doctors can prescribe higher daily amounts than is allowed by the current FSA guidance for CBD food supplements.)
  • Capsules
  • Sprays
  • THC and CBD products for vaporising

If you receive a prescription for an unlicensed cannabis-based medication, the type and cannabinoid content of what you receive will depend on what your specialist doctor thinks is appropriate for your condition. They will write the prescription and the pharmacy will try to source it. With several specialist cannabis clinics opening in the UK, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to find a pharmacy that can fill your prescription.

Who is eligible for a prescription?

Who is eligible for a prescription

You’re eligible for a prescription for a CBPM or CBD oil if a specialist doctor believes that it’s the most appropriate medication for your condition. This is likely to be after you’ve tried several other options and your remaining choices are limited.

However, you’re only likely to receive a prescription from a private specialist doctor or a cannabis clinic. This is because NHS doctors follow the guidelines outlined by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). These currently recommend that:

  • Doctors should not prescribe CBD or THC for chronic pain.
  • Nabilone may be used for specific cases of nausea and vomiting.
  • Sativex is appropriate for some adults with MS.
  • Epidiolex should only be used as part of a scientific study.

If you choose to pay for a consultation with a private specialist, they may prescribe a CBPM if you have one of the following conditions:

Chemotherapy-induced nausea

Cancer-related appetite loss

Cancer pain

Crohn’s disease

Ulcerative Colitis

Inflammatory bowel disease

Irritable bowel syndrome

Autistic spectrum disorder

Epilepsy

Alzheimer’s disease symptoms

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Parkinson’s symptoms

Traumatic brain injury

Migraine

Cluster headache

Multiple Sclerosis Neuropathic pain

Parkinson’s disease

Functional neurological disorder

Motor neurone disease

Muscular dystrophy symptoms

Degenerative disc disease

Cerebral Palsy

Nerve conditions

Spinal cord injury/disease

Post-operative surgery pain

Arthritis/RA

Chronic pain

Fibromyalgia

Ehlers-danlos syndrome

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Anxiety

Agoraphobia

Depression

Insomnia

Eating disorders

Stress

Sleep disorder Posttraumatic stress disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Tourettes

 

Having a diagnosis for one of these conditions does not automatically qualify you for a CBD or medical cannabis prescription. But, if you’ve unsuccessfully tried conventional medications and there are no more available to you, you may be eligible.      

How can I get a prescription?

How can I get a prescription

If you’ve exhausted all other options to treat your condition, you can book a consultation with a private specialist doctor or cannabis clinic. Although any doctor on the special register of the General Medical Council can legally prescribe CBPM, some may be reluctant to and might not have access to pharmacists who can fill the prescription. The best option is cannabis clinics staffed by specialist doctors who can guide you through the process and fill your prescription.

In most cases, the cost of a private consultation, repeat appointments and medication can range from a total of between £200 to £450 per month. The medicine itself is costly because multiple companies are involved from farming to production and delivery. At each stage, extra costs are added, resulting in an expensive end product. However, there are now a small number of companies who own every step of the process so are able to keep the costs down.

Although the process differs with each clinic, these are the likely steps involved:

  1. Find a clinic. Several options can easily be found on Google.
  2. Visit their website and complete the online form. They will likely want to collect personal and medical details, including permission to access your records.
  3. If you’re accepted to the next stage, you should receive information on how to pay for and book an appointment.
  4. Attend the appointment. This will be with a specialist doctor and may be over the phone or in person. It will likely involve a discussion about your condition and possible treatment.
  5. If they decide to prescribe you a CBPM, they will talk you through the options, including possible strengths and strains. If you want a CBD-only product such as CBD oil you can discuss this with the doctor at this point.
  6. Most clinics will now pass your prescription to their pharmacy who will contact you to arrange payment.

You may be eligible for a subsidy with Project 21

Project 21

Project 21 is an ambitious research project that aims to create a large body of evidence on the effects of cannabis-based medicinal products. To do this, they hope to recruit more than 20,000 participants and offer them a £150 per month subsidy towards the cost of private medical cannabis.

To be accepted, you must have a history of at least two prescribed medications, that failed to manage your condition effectively and a diagnosis of at least one of these conditions:

  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Chronic Pain
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance Use Disorder
  • Tourette’s Syndrome

If you’re eligible for Project 21, you’ll still need to make an appointment with a clinic and follow the steps above to be assessed for a prescription. However, there is a list of approved Project 21 partners that are the best place to start.

What is the difference between prescribed CBD and CBD food supplements?

CBD oils and other products with concentrations ranging from 1% to 50% are already legal and available in the UK. There are also many brands whose products undergo third-party lab tests and meet high quality and safety standards.

The difference with prescribed CBD is that a doctor will match a specific product and strength to your diagnosis. Because it’s an unlicensed medicine, they aren’t bound by the same restrictions as retailers are for food supplements. They can prescribe daily amounts that could even be as much as 1000mg if they consider it necessary. They could even prescribe a product with a higher level of THC if they believe that it’s the best course of action for you.

Currently, prescription CBD oils are likely to be slightly more expensive than food supplements and they have the additional cost of private doctors’ appointments. However, clinics and suppliers are working together to bring the prices down and make it more accessible for those who need it.

CBD oil values

Conclusion

Since the legalisation of medical cannabis in 2018, it’s taken a disappointingly long time for genuine patients to be able to access the treatment they need. However, now things are moving faster. If you go private, you can get an appointment with a specialist doctor with the ability to prescribe CBD oils and cannabis-based medications.

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Tim W. Shaw
Tim W. Shaw

Author

Tim W. Shaw writes extensively about CBD oil, cannabis and other groundbreaking food supplements. He and his wife share their home with two daughters and a lifetime’s collection of books.


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