PATIENTS currently frozen out by an under-performing National Health Service are being offered access to cannabis medicine through a new private sector scheme.
Around 700 patients are currently estimated to be accessing medical cannabis through the existing handful of private clinic chains.
With over one million Brits said to be using cannabis – with symptoms which are not being controlled by traditional medications – the Grow Open Access Initiative now aims to support their access to professional medical help.
It has secured support from most of the UK’s private medical cannabis clinics which have emerged to fill the gap left by a failing NHS system.
‘Simple, Fast, And Affordable’
The Grow Open Access Initiative has been launched by Grow Pharma. Its managing Director Pierre van Weperen, told BusinessCann: “At this moment in time the needs of patients seeking medical cannabis have to take priority, and the clinics we have spoken to have agreed to support this initiative.
“We want to make sure there is an ample supply of product available and remove all of the hassle for patients. We want to make this simple, fast, easily accessible, with competitive and affordable pricing.
Four chains of clinics are currently participating with more expected to follow. They are: London-based Integro and Cannabis Access Clinics. Medical Cannabis Services Clinics, which is set to open in the UK shortly, and MyAccess Clinics, which is supported by Canadian company Althea and has practices in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.
Patients can access appointments to the clinics through the website of the recently-launched Open Cannabis initiative. Some initial consultations are free.
UK Medical Cannabis Market Worth £250,000 A Month
Most appointments are now undertaken remotely aiming to make access as straight-forward as possible.
Grow Pharma currently has a profile of 25 ‘unlicensed’ cannabis medicines and is estimated to supply round 50% of the current UK market.
Mr van Weperen is hoping UK cannabis medicine will follow the trajectory of Germany and Australia.
“In both cases the for the first few years the market is very slow but from then on it starts to gather momentum and build. In Australia, for example, it has grown rapidly from a few thousand in year three to 30,000 in year four,” he said.
Prices in the UK have come down in the last year. So a person seeking prescriptions for pain, for example, will now be paying around £400 a month compared to £800 one year ago.
This compares with the street price of cannabis of around £9 a gram, equating to between £250 and £300 a month.
Mr van Weperen continued: “Everything we are do is aimed at accelerating an upward trajectory in the curve of patients shifting from street or home-grown cannabis to prescribed medicine. As we are able to support the delivery of more products we will see prices come down further.”
Focus On Delivering Medical Cannabis – Right Now
A recent survey estimated some 1.4m people are using illegal cannabis and the Growth Open Access Initiative hopes these will shift to prescribed medicines, which will be of consistent quality and titrated by experienced clinicians.
Despite the law change in November 2018 less than a handful of patients have been able to access the cannabis medicines they seek through the NHS.
Recent research by the Open Cannabis initiative found that around one-third of street cannabis users still did not now it could be accessed through official medical channels.
Following a change in the import restrictions in March this year doctors can now order bulk supplies securing supplies for months ahead.
Dr Sunil Arora, from MyAccess Clinics, said: “It’s great to see the Grow Open Access Initiative come online in the UK. More patient access schemes means more diversity in the choice that patients have to get a treatment in the country and ultimately, it will make prescriptions more affordable for patients as more get treated.”
Alex Fraser, Patient Access Lead at Grow Pharma, said: “The fact that patients are finding the existing system hard to navigate or opaque in its practices is incredibly damaging to their trust in the legal market. We need to work harder, and together, to make sure patients’ needs are put first”.
There are a number of patient access schemes in the UK including ones delivered by the Sapphire Medical Clinics and Project 2021. These initiatives include a register of patient data, designed to garner an evidence base on the efficacy of medical cannabis.
Mr van Weperen added: “While these data collection schemes are interesting and may prove beneficial in the future our initiative is focused on securing access to medicines for patients who need it – right now.”
The Medical Cannabis Clinics also has a growing network of UK practices with hundreds of patients on its registry.