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New scheduling could pave the way for more Epidyolex on the NHS

Epilepsy medicine Epidyolex has been moved to Schedule 5 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, opening the door to more prescriptions on the NHS.

The CBD drug is the only cannabis medicine available on the NHS for the treatment of epilepsy.

The new scheduling further distinguishes Epidyolex from other cannabis-based medicines that are currently prescribed in the UK.

The Home Office circular states:

“By placing Epidyolex in Schedule 5 to the 2001 Regulations, it is no longer subject to the prohibition on importation, exportation and possession under the 1971 [Misuse of Drugs] Act. 

“This will reduce administrative processes for companies wanting to supply Epidyolex to patients with severe epilepsy.”

The amendment will also extend the length of time a prescription can be valid for.

Meanwhile, doctors will now be allowed to prescribe more than the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)-recommended maximum 30 days’ supply.

The circular states:

“This may help reduce the number of appointments needed for patients, with prescribers, saving time and reducing costs for both patients and healthcare professionals.”

Epidyolex was previously a Schedule 2 drug, alongside other cannabis-based medicines.

However, in 2019, the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recommended that it be reclassified to Schedule 5 as the drug only contains a tiny amount of THC and presents a low risk of abuse or dependency.

While the scheduling is good news for some parents of children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, Epidyolex doesn’t work in all cases.

Campaigners around the UK have been calling for more cannabis medicines to be available on the NHS to account for different types of epilepsy and the CBD/THC balances required to treat each individual.

Medical cannabis activist and mother of Alfie Dingley Hannah Deacon wrote an open letter last week urging the government to ‘unlock the stasis’ preventing the NHS from prescribing medical cannabis more readily.

She said:

“The plight of our children and the need for medical cannabis is so much more than strategy, task forces, or policy announcements.

“Today, I implore you to all come together and finally deliver appropriate access to medical cannabis on the NHS.”

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