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Will insurance companies cover medical cannabis?

With medical cannabis not being prescribed on the NHS, it is a potentially expensive treatment for people with various conditions, including those living with daily pain. Will insurance companies in the UK step in to plug this financial burden as they would with other medicines? Cannabis Health reports.



Medical cannabis is typically taken with a ‘start low, go slow’ approach, with doses gradually increased to the desired level.

But playing this long game can become expensive. In the absence of NHS prescriptions, patients are increasingly accessing private prescriptions and their monthly bills can mount up.

Often medical cannabis is taken to treat a long-held condition like fibromyalgia that various pharmaceutical drugs have failed to tackle.

Should the need to try it emerge out of a new diagnosis, however, would insurers cover it? Perhaps it is needed for pain relief in chemotherapy or in the aftermath of a serious injury, for example.

The insurance giant AXA is particularly open to the idea.

Its PPP Healthcare division tells Cannabis Health it does not “regard the use of medicinal cannabis any different from that of any other treatment”.

When covering the cost of drug treatments on its health insurance plans, the firm has two criteria that must be met. The drug must be:

  • Licensed for use by the European Medicines Agency or the Medicines and Heathcare products Regulatory Agency
  • Used according to that licence

In a blow to those who are arguably most likely to use the treatment though, the company stated that its policies are “designed to cover the cost of treatment of unexpected illness and conditions that respond quickly to treatment”, meaning cover may not extend to those with chronic conditions.

As it only offers life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection, LV= advised us that it wouldn’t be able to comment specifically on whether insurers should pay the cost of actually supplying medicinal cannabis, for example, a treatment payment under a PMI type policy.

But the company has shared a similar view to AXA PPP, stating: “Our customers may have underlying medical conditions, which they may use medicinal cannabis to help treat. Any medicinal cannabis use in itself is usually acceptable for protection insurance.

“All cases would be considered on an individual basis, taking into account primarily the actual medical condition and the mortality/morbidity risks associated with the condition.”

Another insurer, North East Healthcare Solutions (NEHS), however, advised Cannabis Health that it is “not aware of any insurers in the UK who currently cover the cost of treatment”.

The firm said: “UK private health insurance plans are designed to cover acute conditions, and only cover medications as an inpatient. As an outpatient, policy holders would get medication on the NHS or pay privately.

“Several of the conditions where medical cannabis is being used by patients is for chronic conditions, which again are not usually covered by UK insurers as plans are designed to diagnose and treat acute conditions, and only flare-ups of chronic conditions.”

NEHS continued: “When asked directly most insurers have either declined to comment, with others stating that they would not cover it as an out-patient medication.”

Professor Mike Barnes, chair of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, says: “It’s a great pity that such a valuable medicine is not covered by insurance as most conditions helped by cannabis are by nature chronic, such as chronic pain or anxiety or epilepsy.

“Sometimes though cannabis can help an acute condition, such a more acute pain or nausea during chemotherapy, so I hope that insurance companies will cover this valuable medicine in those circumstances.”

Zurich is its native Switzerland’s largest insurer, and also holds a very strong customer base in the UK. As the company provides life insurance rather than health, its policies wouldn’t cover the cost of medicinal cannabis. It has, however, outlined its approach to insure those who use the treatment.

The firm stated that if a customer discloses that they use cannabis, they will be asked if it has been prescribed by their doctor or GP, full details on this prescription including the medical condition it is used to treat, and a doctor’s report. Depending on statements from the doctor, the company’s stance then differs slightly.

If the doctor confirms cannabis is being prescribed for a medical condition and is not being smoked, the customer will be assessed, but no additional rating or exclusions would be applied for the use.

However, if the cannabis is being smoked, or there is no valid prescription for it, the customer would be assessed as per any other individual who smokes cannabis. For less frequent use – 3 to 4 days per week – standard terms of insurance would usually be available to the user. Those with heavier use – over 16 days per month or over four days per week – would be subject to a loading or increase applied to their premium.

If adverse features such as alcohol issues or drug dependency were found, this may lead to no acceptance being made available to the customer.

Aviva held a similar stance to AXA PPP, stating that the conditions medical cannabis is usually recommended for are chronic conditions, which are not covered by private medical insurance.

When contacted, American International Group (AIG), which operates in over 80 countries and underwrites policies for several providers, was unable to comment.

Previously, speculation suggested that health insurance would not cover the use of medical cannabis in the UK, despite legalisation of use in late 2018 and resistance from the NHS, and these comments appear to back up these claims.

While it appears firms have no problem insuring those using the treatment – as long as it is prescribed and being taken solely for pain relief – some are reluctant to actually pay the costs.

It is important to remember that this is a constantly evolving treatment, and as the usage of medical cannabis continues to grow, policies and standings are likely to change too.

In the meantime, there are, at least, signs that insurers are adjusting to the emerging medical and wellbeing cannabis markets in the UK.

Erimus, a boutique insurance broker, said it recognises the ever-changing nature of the treatment and how insurers must constantly adapt to the changes.

It told Cannabis Health: “The insurance market for medicinal cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) is continuing to evolve, with insurers developing specific wordings to meet the needs of growers, manufacturers, retailers and medical practitioners.

“Certain Life Sciences insurance providers can accommodate cannabis and CBD risks. Risk appetite varies and is dependent upon the end use of the product. As this is an emerging market, insurers have limited claims data available to assess risk. Therefore, some providers are more cautious than others.

“The insurance market for manufacturers and suppliers of products that contain a small amount of CBD in creams/balms but excluding edible substances is wider than for products that are edible and/or consumed.”

According to the firm, specific points insurers will need when deciding on policies include:

  • Where is the CBD sourced from, can suppliers be easily traced and held legally responsible?
  • Is the CBD isolate from THC and how/where is this tested?
  • Are there any consumables?
  • What raw products are used and where will end products be supplied to?

Details of compliance with relevant laws and regulations relating to the supply of CBS products, including licensing and certification by relevant health and government advisors/agencies.

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‘Medical cannabis was my daughter’s last hope – I wouldn’t dream of taking it away from her now’



Tannie and her daughter Indie-Rose

Cannabis medicine was Tannine’s last hope when she boarded a plane to the Netherlands with her severely epileptic daughter. But now Brexit regulations threaten to take that away, she tells Sarah Sinclair. 

Indie-Rose, now six, had her first seizure in her high chair at four months old.

“I’d never seen anything like it in my life. I was petrified I didn’t know what to do,” says Indie’s mum Tannine Montgomery.

Doctors reassured Tannine it was just a febrile convulsion, a fit that can happen in babies as a result of a fever or spike in temperature. Although she was shaken by it, she wasn’t overly concerned.

“I was really scared about what I had seen, but we took her home and I thought to myself she’s going to be fine, it’s just one of those things,” she says.

“But Indie didn’t stop seizing. The seizures progressed quickly and she was soon having a lot of them. We were constantly calling an ambulance.”

Even when doctors told Tannine that they thought her daughter had epilepsy, she was still hopeful that she would lead a normal life. 

“I knew nothing about epilepsy at the time, I’d never seen anyone have an epileptic seizure, but I thought we would get some medicine and Indie would be able to live a normal life. I was quite hopeful that’s what would happen,” she admits.

Indie was prescribed various antiepileptic drugs, none of which managed to keep her seizures under control, and underwent a number of tests, from MRI scans to lumbar punctures while still just a few months old.

Her doctors eventually discovered a gene mutation related to Dravet syndrome, a rare but severe form of epilepsy, which along with uncontrollable seizures causes a number issues such as cognitive decline, hypermobility and problems with movement and walking.

By the age of two Indie had begun to show signs of Dravet syndrome, her development had halted and she lost her ability to talk, but it was the contrast seizures which were leaving her most at risk.

“By the time Indie was three, we were eight antiepileptic drugs down and still nothing stopped her seizures,” says Tannine.

“We were still calling ambulances constantly and I just couldn’t see that for her for the rest of her life.”

For the next year Tannine dedicated any spare time that she could to researching medical cannabis. 

“I’d heard it could help but if I was going to give it to my daughter I wanted to make sure I was giving her something safe and I wanted to make sure that I was being legal – I didn’t want to risk my daughter being taken off me,” she says.

Tannine eventually met the founders of a UK CBD company, who showed her around the facility, explained the extraction process and gave her some oil to try with Indie.

“For three weeks it sat in my cupboard, because I was too scared to use it,” she remembers.

“Finally, Indie had this awful night with so many seizures. I opened the cupboard to get her normal medication and saw the CBD oil. I thought, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose’.”


Ten days later Indie ran down the garden for the first time. 

“It was amazing, we’d never seen her run,” says Tannine.

“Indie’s dad and I, just looked at each other and realised this stuff was actually helping her.

“From that point on we started trying to get her a prescription, so we had guidance from doctors and could make sure we were giving her a therapeutic dose.”

With cannabis still illegal in the UK, even for medical purposes, Tannine contacted the Erasmus Hospital in Rotterdam, where a paediatrician agreed to prescribe Indie the whole plant cannabis oil Bedrolite.

With Indie’s condition at its worst Tannine left her eleven-month-old son with his grandmother and travelled to the Netherlands in a bid to save her daughter.

“She was having seizures on the aeroplane. I was petrified, but I felt like it was my last hope,” she says.

“As much as people could say it was unsafe to take her, Indie had seizures every day. I would never have got her out of the country and I needed to get access to this treatment.”

The next day Tannine took Indie to her appointment with the pediatric neurologist and collected her prescription from a local pharmacy.

“It was just a regular pharmacy selling paracetamol and other medicines, it was amazing that we could just go to the pharmacy and collect it,” she adds.

After one day on the medicine Indie slept through the night. After four days she had had no seizures at all. When Tannine’s partner arrived to join them with their son, Indie played with her little brother for the first time. 

“I remember him standing at the doorway of this Airbnb and she ran up to him to tickle him. Up until then it was like she hadn’t even known he existed,” says Tannine.

“We could see straight away how this was helping her interact and function so much better.” 

The family put their lives on hold and spent three months in the Netherlands, unable to return to the UK with Indie’s medicine. Tannine describes the experience as like “living in lockdown”.

“We were there for just over three months, but it felt like forever,” she says. 

“It was traumatic, it certainly wasn’t a holiday. We didn’t have money to spend on sightseeing, it was all for Indie’s medicine and the whole time I was fundraising to be able to afford to keep her on it, because it’s not cheap.”

Eventually Indie was granted a licence to import Bedrolite to the UK through a private prescription and in November 2018 the law changed to legalise medical cannabis.

But Tannine continued to campaign for NHS access, with no option but to rely on donations for Indie, having spent over £30,000 on her prescription fees to date.

It was this that drove her to launch her own CBD company last year to help fund Indie’s medicine, as well as supporting others in similar circumstances. 

“Unfortunately, when a bottle of Bedrolite oil is £160 for 10ml and your child’s using two of them a week, that’s not attainable for anyone who’s just holding down a normal job,” she says.

“I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere with the government and I didn’t want to have to rely on fundraising forever.”

Tannine saved up out of her benefits and began making her own products, using a 10 percent cannabis oil, similar to Bedrolite, but with lower levels of THC and legal in the UK.

“I had a lot of good feedback and that’s when I decided that this is something I could do to provide Indie with what she needs and help people at the same time,” she says.

“I wanted to create an authentic company built on love for my child and my desire to help other people who have to suffer the way she does. 

“This isn’t prescription medication, but each person is so individual in what works for them when it comes to cannabis, it’s always worth trying something. When I get a text message from a mother who says her daughter stood up for the first time, it makes my day. 

“There isn’t anything in this world that can make me feel better than improving a child’s life.”

Indie hasn’t been hospitalised for three years since she began taking the Bedrolite, she hasn’t needed any rescue medication or pharmaceuticals and last year her attendance in school was 96 percent. 

However Brexit has left Indie and dozens of other patients without access to the life-saving medication. 

The family were given just two weeks notice after the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) sent a letter to importers, clinics and patient groups, stating that prescriptions issued in the UK ‘can no longer be lawfully dispensed in an EU Member State’ from 1 January, 2021.

Those prescribed Bedrocan oils through the Transvaal pharmacy based in the Netherlands, have been advised to find “alternatives”. But as many experts have warned, switching these children’s medications could be life-threatening. 

Plant and cannabis expert Dr Callie Seaman told Cannabis Health that with over 565 different secondary metabolites in cannabis plants, each batch is subtly different, let alone each product or supplier. And consistency is vital in the treatment of severe epilepsy. 

“For patients taking medical cannabis for palliative care and other diseases, a switch in oil is not the end of the world, but what’s needed with epilepsy is consistency,” she explained.

“Any neurologist will tell you that when you find something which works, you have to stick with it. As soon as you start changing things that’s when the issues arise, and any seizure comes with the risk of death.”

Indie still lives with disabilities as a result of her condition, but the seizures she has are much less severe. 

The fact her medication is at risk is an added worry for Tannine, who says if the legislation surrounding the import of cannabis medicines from the Netherlands doesn’t change they fear her condition could worsen. 

“She’s doing so much better than she was,” she adds.

“I couldn’t dream of taking it away from her now.”


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The ultimate CBD Christmas gift guide



The best CBD Christmas gifts

Looking for last-minute ideas for a loved one? We’ve found the gifts that keep on giving this Christmas.

Thanks to what has been a fairly stressful year for everyone, sales of CBD have exploded in 2020, with more and more people turning to the cannabinoid to quell Covid-related anxiety, help them sleep and generally boost their wellbeing.

One thing that has become clear, is that interest spans all ages and demographics – from the older generation looking to ease symptoms of arthritis to athletes recognising its potential for aiding recovery.

And with an ever-expanding marketplace of CBD-infused goods up for grabs, this Christmas there’s a product for everyone – whether they are a seasoned user or haven’t yet taken plunge. We’ve curated some of our favourites to put a smile on their face on Christmas day.


Love Hemp Christmas bundles

From £81.96
Love Hemp has crafted a festive assortment of Christmas-flavoured CBD oils and perfectly packaged bundles which are aimed at supporting wellbeing and boosting self-care. Choose from Candy Cane or Gingerbread flavours to get you in the spirit of things. The Cosy Night In bundle also comes with 300mg body salve, cellulose face mask and dark chocolate CBD treats.

The CBD Book

This is a bookshelf essential for anyone who wants to find out more about CBD. It is packed with research and insight into how CBD can be used to help manage a range of health conditions, as well as where to start when it comes to choosing the right product for you and how best to take it to reap the benefits. A gorgeous stocking filler for the ‘CBD curious’.

Sweet Pink Relax and Restore hamper

After a tough year, treat your nearest and dearest to a much-needed pamper over the festive period. This Relax and Restore hamper from Sweet Pink CBD includes Wild Orange & Bergamot Body Buzz CBD Massage Oil and a Eucalyptus & Lime CBD Bath Bomb, which will have them drifting off  to a slice of paradise – if only in their imagination – and heading into the new year feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world.

*Get 10% off Sweet Pink CBD with the code CANNABISHEALTHMAG

Holistic Highland Hemp CBD chocolate

From £4.99
Selection boxes are so 2019. Take the Christmas chocolate to the next level with a CBD-infused treat in their stocking. These 100 percent organic orange and vanilla chocolate bars are made in Scotland, rich in a full spectrum of natural cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. The brand’s 15 percent hemp paste and acacia CBD honey also come highly recommended.

The Grass Roots ritual collection

The perfect luxury gift for the skincare enthusiast or anyone feeling like they’ve lost their sparkle. The entire Grass Roots Skin range is made with active ingredients, including CBD to target inflammation, soothe the skin and reduce redness. For anyone looking to change-up their routine and inject some life back into their daily skin rituals, this will have them glowing again in no time.

Ardoa’s Indigo 66 CBD oil

Give a loved one the gift of a good night’s sleep this Christmas – isn’t that what we all want after 2020? Ardoa’s S-drops Indigo66 features a unique blend of cannabinoids that has been specifically formulated for night-time use. It uses organic hemp seed oil and has quite an Earthy taste – which some will like more than others – but if you’re looking for a potent night time CBD product it doesn’t come much better than this.

*Shop here with 10% off Indigo 66 for Cannabis Health readers

Maria and Craig’s CBD Botanical Spirit

This non-alcoholic premium botanical spirit is perfect for the teetotaller in your life or anyone contemplating taking on Dry January. Maria &Craig’s features a blend of premium CBD isolate with distilled sage, chamomile, juniper, orange blossom and other natural botanicals. Pour over ice and add tonic to enhance those social moments without the after-effects of alcohol.

Pothead CBD coffee and mug gift set

Ideal for those lazy mornings over the festive period. Each cup of Pot Head’s CBD coffee is made using organic hemp extract and arabica coffee beans and a serving contains approximately 10mg of CBD as well other cannabinoids. For the self-confessed ‘Pot Head’ in your life.

Medivita Intimate CBD lubricant

Many have reported that CBD lubricant has made a huge difference to their sexual wellbeing, having been found to increase blood flow, provide pain relief and help people relax in those intimate moments. Whether they suffer from painful sex, dryness or simply want to heighten their pleasure, this is a gift you can be sure they’ll thank you for.

Mood & Bears CBD honey

From £25.50
What better way to take the edge off these cold winter mornings than with a dollop of CBD-infused honey on your porridge? These honeys from health food brand Mood & Bears are available in 227g jars with 500mg CBD, and 340g jars with 1000mg CBD. The Organic collection is designed to boost sleep, energy and positivity, while the Natural range aims to encourage relaxation, happiness and peace. Sounds dreamy.

Pure Sport CBD Gift Box

For the athlete or sports person in your life, this gift box from Pure Sport CBD will give them a taste of the type products on offer to aid their recovery. Designed to relieve aches and pains, benefit sleep & anxiety and aid in relaxation and performance, Pure Sport CBD oil is one of the few brands which is Banned Substance Control Group Certified (BSCG) so is 100% free from THC & contaminants and safe for drug tests.

Colorado High CBD gin

Featuring premium quality CBD oil sourced from hemp grown in the Rockies in Colorado, gin lovers will enjoy this intriguing spirit, which capitalises on the subtle flavour of CBD, with citrus notes similar to grapefruit. Its cloudiness is a natural consequence of the high quantity of CBD within it – one double measure is sufficient for an optimum chilled gin drinking experience.

Cured Rise daytime CBD supplement, 180mg

These daily capsules from Cured Nutrition, designed to boost energy and focus – while being completely caffeine and stimulant free – will be a welcome addition to their routine come the dreary January days, when we all need a little pick-me-up. Each three capsule serving delivers 9mg of CBD extract as well as a carefully selected blend of herbal supplements and vitamins to start the day off right.

Mr NICE, Gold Gift Box

From Mr NICE – Europe’s first cannabis lifestyle store in Soho, London – The Gold gift box includes Vegan CBD gummies, Peace CBD bath bomb, CBD chocolate, CBD coffee, and CBD 5 percent oil and is the ultimate gift for the CBD-lover in your life, who will love unwrapping this on Christmas Day.

Kloris Superboost Face Oil

The Superboost Face Oil was made to keep skin hydrated and protected against the winter elements. Featuring traces of squalane, which is known to have anti-aging properties, cannabis sativa seed oil to lock in moisture and cucumber seed oil, which supports cell regeneration. Recommended to be used alongside your daily skincare routine to keep you glowing throughout the January blues.

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7 CBD trends to look out for in 2021



CBD drinks are predicted to be popular in 2021. Photo by Pot Head Coffee

The UK CBD market is on track to reach an estimated £1 billion by 2025; a staggering number considering the industry is still in its infancy.

The compound is now being infused into all kinds of products from chocolate and crisps to bed sheets and face masks.

In 2021, the range of CBD products on the market is only expected to grow and as the industry continues to attract investment, more is likely to be funnelled into research and development.

  • CBD beauty products

A report penned by Prohibition Partners, a cannabis market intelligence company, estimated that the CBD skincare market will reach US$959 million in sales in 2024.

The report explains that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis is disrupting the traditional beauty market as the consumer seeks more natural cosmetics products.

Prohibition Partners’ Managing Director Stephen Murphy, said: “There are constant questions on the longevity of this trend but with the ability to act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent and an antioxidant, cannabis is becoming one of the most disruptive forces in the beauty and personal care industry in the last two decades.”

  • Transdermal products

There are two types of CBD product that can be applied to the skin; topical and transdermal.

Topical products only work on the top three layers of the skin, so no CBD is absorbed into the bloodstream. They are usually applied to target a specific area of discomfort in the body.

Transdermal products, on the other hand, are able to penetrate through the skin and into muscle tissue, with a portion being absorbed into the bloodstream.

Rather than being applied as a lotion or cream, transdermal products are often sold in the form of patches. With benefits that extend beyond the specific area of pain, transdermal products are expected to continue to grow in popularity in 2021.

  • CBD Bedding

Studies have shown that CBD may have the potential to improve quality of sleep, so it comes as no surprise that bedding companies are finding ways to infuse their products with CBD.

Therapedic is one of the biggest names in the industry to develop a line of CBD products which include CBD-infused mattresses and covers.

Speaking to Furniture Today, Therapedic CEO Gerry Borreggine said: “Currently, CBD is an unregulated supplement, but studies have been published claiming it has been clinically proven to induce calmness and has been used in treating insomnia. Who wouldn’t want that in a mattress?”

  • CBD toothpaste and mouthwash

A number of companies are putting CBD in toothpaste and mouthwash to prevent common dental hygiene issues, including plaque and gingivitis.

Although this may sound dubious, the Journal of Cannabis Research published a study earlier this year which found that CBD-infused mouthwash had a similar effectiveness as chlorhexidine; a core ingredient in prescription mouthwashes.

International healthcare company, AXIM Biotechnologies Inc. is one of the leading companies creating CBD products for the mouth. Axim CEO John W. Huemoeller II told Forbes: “CBD is a powerful antibiotic and anti-inflammatory, so we have found it has great benefits in relation to oral care after years of offering our patented CBD-based chewing gum. The inclusion of CBD for anti-inflammatory and antibiotic is intended to aid reduction in gum swelling while helping to eliminate infection-causing bacteria.”

  • CBD Toothpicks

Sticking with the theme of dental hygiene, Arizona-based company, Purekana, has recently added CBD-infused toothpicks to its line of products which contain a dose of 10 to 25 mg of CBD.

There’s no evidence for this specific product, however Purekana claims the CBD enters the bloodstream almost instantaneously via tissues in the sublingual cavity.

  • CBD Drinks

The CBD drinks industry is expected to skyrocket in 2021, posing a real threat to the alcohol and beverage industry.

Forward thinking companies such as Molson Coors and Anheuser-Busch InBev have caught wind of the trend and have began to strike up partnerships with cannabis brands.

CBD-infused drinks are expected to attract the growing number of health-conscious consumers looking for an alternative to alcoholic beverages.

  • CBD Research

CBD has only been on the market in the UK for a few years, so academic research remains in the early stages. H

However, as the cannabis market continues to grow and more money is fed into the industry, more investment is likely to be put into research in 2021.

With better scientific understanding, trust in CBD across a wider range of people is likely to increase and further drive the market.

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