Cannabis-based products for medicinal use can be prescribed by specialist hospital doctors in the north from today, November 1, but is not extended to General Practitioners (G.P.s).
The move by the Health officials mean that this will remove the need for prescribing, supply and possession licences to be issued by the Department of Health, but it has been stressed that this will not pave the way to legalising cannabis for recreational use.
The prescriptions are expected to be issued for patients described as having an “unmet clinical need”.
The Department today said that is important prescribing decisions are taken by expert clinicians informed by evidence on quality, safety and effectiveness.
Therefore, prescribing of cannabis-based products for medicinal use is restricted to clinicians listed on the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council (GMC).
Cannabis-based products for medicinal use will not be available from General Practitioners.
The Department said that this approach mirrors similar changes occurring in England, Scotland and Wales and ensures that patients living in Northern Ireland are able to access cannabis-based products for medicinal use on the same terms as patients elsewhere in the UK.
The Department has worked alongside the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to develop additional frameworks and clinical guidelines.
This is to ensure that cannabis-based medicinal products can be prescribed safely and effectively while at the same time ensuring they are not misused.
Furthermore, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has been commissioned to provide additional advice to clinicians, and the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will be conducting a long-term review of cannabis use for medicinal purposes.
The Department said it will continue to work closely with these agencies to monitor the impact of this policy.
“It is important to note that the rescheduling of cannabis-based products for medicinal use does not pave the way towards legalising cannabis for recreational use. The penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged,” officials from the Department has stated.