The first Medical Cannabis Awareness Week is calling for access to NHS prescriptions two years on from the landmark law change.
Taking place from 1-8 November 2020 the inaugural Medical Cannabis Awareness Week (MCAW) will bring together patients, doctors, advocates and organisations to call for fair access to medical cannabis on the NHS.
On 1 November 2018, the law changed to allow UK patients access to medical cannabis. But since then, only a handful of prescriptions have been issued by the NHS.
Patients are struggling to fund private prescriptions – costing several hundreds of pounds a month – and up to 1.4 million people are forced to turn to the illegal cannabis market.
Most patients prescribed medical cannabis live with chronic pain, neurological or psychiatric conditions, such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, anxiety & PTSD – yet many continue to face stigma in their day-to-day lives and from healthcare professionals when trying to access this treatment.
Launched by PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) – a community of medical cannabis patients and advocates – throughout the week patients from across the UK will share their stories about the life-changing impact of medical cannabis and their difficulties in accessing a prescription.
Individuals and organisations from across the sector will take part in online events including a tour of a legal cannabis growing facility, and conversations with patients and doctors.
PLEA advocacy director Lucy Stafford took addictive opiate-based painkillers nearly every day of her teenage years to cope with the debilitating symptoms of the connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.
“I had to drop out of school and live with the horrendous side effects. I was a shadow of myself,” she said.
“When I was prescribed medical cannabis, it changed everything. I’ve learnt to walk after years using a wheelchair and now attend university – I’ve got my life back. All patients in need should have the same chance to live a better quality of life – we need NHS access.”
The PLEA Community will host MCAW during the first week of November each year.
As part of the awareness week, people are encouraged to talk about medical cannabis with their friends and family, record and share their own story, write to their MPs and even play medical cannabis bingo (have you been called a stoner when talking about your medicine? Has anyone ever suggested you’re just after a legal high?)
“It’s time to end the inequality and ensure everyone who needs it has the opportunity to benefit from medical cannabis treatment,” said Abby Hughes, PLEA outreach director.
“During MCAW, we’re calling for fair access, we’re promoting medical cannabis education for all and we’re directly addressing the stigma faced by patients. We want people to have conversations about cannabis, ask questions and be open-minded.
“Cannabis medicines are changing people’s lives around the world. In the UK, people are forced to pay privately, and it’s not right. Medical cannabis is keeping children with severe forms of epilepsy alive, and it’s allowing people with chronic illnesses and conditions to live normal lives.”
PLEA advocates for quality of life with medical cannabis, enabling patients to access their medicine free from stigma, geographical inconsistencies, and financial barriers and supports research into the safety and efficacy of cannabis-based medicinal products, to enable evidence-based prescription for all.
Dr Mala Mawkin, head of market development at Cellen Health and advisory board member at PLEA added: “Even though doctors have been able to prescribe Cannabis based Medicinal Products since 2018, healthcare professionals are still not equipped with the knowledge and tools to prescribe in the UK.
“We have made huge progress to be able to have pharmaceutical-grade THC/CBD medicines for patients that are cheaper and safer than the illicit market. The next steps are to invest in research, medical education and address the stigma faced by patients.
“Events during MCAW are here to show patients and healthcare professionals it is essential to talk openly about medical cannabis to address the unmet clinical needs of people living with chronic conditions.”
You can join advocates and organisations to share your PLEA on social media using the hashtag #MCAW2020
Follow @PLEA_community on Twitter and Instagram.
For more information and full programme visit www.medicalcannabisweek.org.uk
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