Accessed from the world wide web at 17:00 hrs on 10.07.19.
Families seeking medical cannabis for their children could soon be able to get it in Harley Street when London’s first private clinic to offer the drug to youngsters opens next week.
The Sapphire Medical Clinic said it can prescribe medicinal cannabis for “all conditions acknowledged to benefit from it” — and will give families consultations “with an open mind”.
Medical cannabis was legalised last year but is unlicensed, meaning it can be prescribed only by specialists or a GP acting under the instructions of one. Parents say it is almost impossible to access medical cannabis on the NHS.
Cases such as those of Billy Caldwell, 13, and Alfie Dingley, seven, have highlighted the benefits of cannabis oil to children with epilepsy who suffer multiple seizures.
The only existing UK clinic offering medical cannabis opened in Cheadle, Greater Manchester in March. That company, The Medical Cannabis Clinics, plans to open a London branch sometime this summer, but will not have a paediatric department at the outset.
Sapphire, which opens on August 1, said its doctors — including pain specialist Dr Michael Platt — will have “complete freedom to prescribe any range of medicinal cannabis products from any available supplier”. Dr Platt said they were conscious of controversy around cannabis products with the active THC component, but were aware of anecdotal cases in which parents have shown that medical cannabis containing THC has had a “strong positive impact on the children concerned”.
He added: “As part of our portfolio of services we are prepared to offer evaluative consultations to families with children affected by intractable epilepsy for consideration of cannabis-based products for medicinal use.
“Our paediatric neurology service will offer consultations to the families of the children … with an open mind but would reserve the right not to prescribe medicinal cannabis containing THC.”
The Government says the evidence for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of medicinal cannabis is “embryonic”. A review of Nice guidelines, which determine whether the NHS should pay for it, is due to be published in the autumn. Cannabis prescriptions have reportedly cost some users up to £1,300 a month.
Sapphire said the London clinic will be the first of a “national network”. It will primarily work on a second-opinion basis, accepting referrals from GPs and other doctors, and its team includes specialists in paediatric and adult neurology, palliative care, psychiatry, gastroenterology, acute general medicine and neuropathic pain. Consultations will cost £250, follow-up sessions £150.
Dr Mikael Sodergren, managing director and academic lead at Sapphire, said: “Medicinal cannabis is a new and exciting field. But it is important that access to it is delivered in a way that fits in with other treatment options.”