A SHORTAGE of National Health Service prescriptions is boosting the growth of the private sector with over 20 UK clinics either open, or set to open, soon.
The Medical Cannabis Clinics (MCC) now operates from two locations in London and Birmingham with a further five planned over the course of the year.
Also in London, Sapphire Medical Clinics was the first UK practice to secure approval from regulators the Care Quality Commission.
It has ambitious plans to open more than a dozen additional clinics across a number of locations in England, and the first north of the border in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Sapphire Managing Director and Academic Lead, Dr Mikael Sodergren, told BusinessCann sites had been identified for all its planned locations which include; Oxford, Southampton, Manchester and Birmingham.
Dr Sodergren and his colleagues anticipated there would be issues with patients failing to secure prescriptions through the NHS and launched Sapphire to fulfil this need.
He said it currently has more than 200 patients on its register, with the typical Sapphire patient being a ’65-year-old lady with chronic pain’.
Many of these also have mobility issues, too, and Sapphire secured approval to deliver telemedicine to such patients in March, with this timely approval catering for the remote consultations required as a result of Covid-19.
He said: “We thought we’d see a decrease in a patients as a result of Covid-19 as we get many of our referrals from GPs and we expected more of them to close, but we have in fact seen an increase through our telemedicine facilities.”
He added that it is looking forward to opening the first clinic in Scotland and has “also been surprised by the number of enquiries from patients in Northern Ireland”.
Prof Mike Barnes, of the MCC says it currently has bases in London and Birmingham with moves well-advanced to open in Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, Newcastle and Bristol.
Like Sapphire its main referrals are for pain, and similarly, psychiatric conditions, including anxiety and PTSD, feature strongly.
It currently has around 150 patients, and a waiting list of around 1,000. Prof Barnes believes that within a year, with all of it surgeries open, it will have around 50 practicing doctors – on a part-time basis – whilst seeing around 250 patients week.
The MCC is part of the Lyphe Group, which also runs the Academy of Medical Cannabis and it has so far trained over 50 doctors to prescribe cannabis medicine.
Both the MCC and Sapphire have established registers to record patient data on the efficacy of their treatment with a view to informing future UK medicinal cannabis policy-making.
Two further companies operate in the prescribing space. MyAccess Clinics – whose parent company is Australian firm Althea Group Holdings – has surgeries in Bristol and London while Cannabis Access Clinics has a practice in Harley Street.
Patients have to be initially referred to the private clinics through their GPs and then undergo a suitability assessment. Prof Barnes says around 40% of its referrals fail to make it to the prescribing stage, mainly as a result of the price.
Although prescription costs has come down markedly over the last year with a monthly prescription for pain now around £400 compared to £800 a year ago, with an increasing number of supplier entering the market.
Despite being legal for 18 months very few prescription for cannabis medicine have been made through the NHS.