Study on the benefit of prescribing cannabis on the NHS

Liz Filmer
31 Jan 2023

The study looks at how weed may be cost-saving for NHS

Experts at York Health Economics Consortium are to devise a flexible health economics research tool to evaluate the efficiency of prescribing cannabis on the NHS

The research will incorporate a monetary comparison of cannabis and other alternative treatments for chronic pain alongside a review of cost and outcomes over 12 months.

The scheme is supported by the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) and Drug Science. It will start in February after guaranteeing funds from supporters, including Glass Pharms, Ethypharm and Rua Bioscience. Additional funding was confirmed via an industry crowd funder held in late 2022.

The tool will evaluate the expenses, resource use and utility of medicinal cannabis. In addition, it will consider the viability of prescribing cannabis on the NHS under various scientific premises. Professor Mike Barnes, chair of the CIC, has said he thinks cannabis could be made obtainable on the NHS at a 'net-zero' cost. 

"A recent US study has shown chronic pain patients using medical cannabis reduced their use of other pain medications by over 50%. If medical cannabis were offered through the NHS in the UK, we would potentially see benefits for patients and cost savings for the already overstretched healthcare system. We support this economics analysis to assist in providing the data needed for the NHS to make an informed decision." James Duckenfield, CEO of Glass Pharms

Advocates argue that many patients are already successfully using cannabis-based medicines to treat chronic pain. However, medical cannabis is not currently available through the NHS for chronic pain. This means that patients face heightened costs to access cannabis via private healthcare.

"For future NHS approval, it's important to determine whether medical cannabis will be cost-effective compared to other currently available treatments." Anne Katrin Schlag, head of research at Drug Science.

The ambitious project is expected to be finished within the first half of 2023. Hopefully, it will help to increase the amount of NHS cannabis prescriptions that have been issued. Providing the NHS with the monetary case for boosting cannabis prescriptions is imperative in the long run to help patients acquire medicinal cannabis to treat their conditions.

Liz Filmer