A small number of patients are to be given cannabis medicine prescriptions as part of a UK trial to test their effectiveness.
GW Pharmaceuticals have offered an early access programme and made available 150 prescriptions, 125 for children and 25 for adults.
That means, for example, that Dr Chris Rittey, a consultant pediatric neurologist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, “has the unenviable task of identifying just five children” in his area who suffer from severe epilepsy , the Sheffield Star reports.
He said: “Realistically there are going to be more than five children who could benefit from it so we have got to work out a way of identifying that five. In our area we know there are probably around 25 and I suspect we will be able to easily agree the top three or four. What will be really difficult is the fifth and we will have a whole group of children who are all equally deserving.
“It will be a really difficult decision because there are going to be families who think their child would have benefited and they will be right. “But it will be based on the evidence we have and which child is likely to get most benefit from it.”
If deemed successful, cannabis-based treatments could then be made widely available as long as they are subsequently approved by the European Medicines Agency and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and are then funded by NHS England.
With refreshing honesty, Dr Rittey admits that “the medical fraternity had known for a long time that cannabis had an antiepileptic effect. But increasingly people started to say we need to investigate this properly.”
The paper says parents have complained that Sheffield Children’s Hospital denied their children treatment due to the £30,000 it would cost per child, per year.