In the second of a two-part series, Cannabis Health speaks to Dr Rebecca Moore about her experience as a prescriber on Drug Science’s Project Twenty21.
Project Twenty21 is a landmark scheme that seeks to widen access to medicinal cannabis and build Europe’s largest body of evidence for its efficacy.
Launched in November 2019 by the UK drug advisory committee, Drug Science. In August 2020, the patient registry handed out its first medical cannabis prescription.
A medical cannabis prescription is notoriously difficult to access on the NHS. In fact, an Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) report from 2020 revealed that less than five have been handed out by the health service. Meanwhile, those who can afford private healthcare can sometimes be left forking out thousands of pounds per month for a prescription.
The prescriber’s perspective
Dr Rebecca Moore, a consultant psychiatrist specialising in trauma and PTSD, is one of the doctors prescribing through the scheme. With a particular interest in women’s mental health, Dr Moore co-founded Make Birth Better, a campaigning group on a mission to make women’s experience of pregnancy better.
CH: What got you interested in medical cannabis?
RM: I’ve been aware of medical cannabis for quite a few years now. At university, I had a friend who had a cancer diagnosis. I watched her use cannabis and saw how helpful that she found it for her symptoms.
My expertise is in general psychiatry, but particularly around trauma and PTSD. I think that’s why I was drawn to medicinal cannabis prescribing; I’ve seen a lot of research around its use with trauma.
During my training, and more recently, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to go and shadow some colleagues in America and see them prescribing medicinal cannabis.
And I was really astounded at the efficacy of that for people. People coming back and reporting that it had helped them with so many different aspects of their life: pain, sleep mood. I was really interested and intrigued by that, and wanted to be part of this when it was possible in the UK.
CH: What kind of patients do you work with as part of Project Twenty21?
RM: I see a wide range of patients coming to see me in the clinic. They often have a very long history of contact with mental health services or with their GP and might be presenting with anxiety, low mood, trauma and lots of other presentations.
What is often a common theme is people that have tried lots and lots of things in the past and never really felt that they have been particularly helpful for them. They might have tried numerous prescribed medications, different types of therapy, exercise, but never really found the right thing that they felt controlled all their symptoms or improved their quality of life.
I really feel that medicinal cannabis is something that we should be talking about with people because for many people, it can be a really good choice in their treatment.
CH: Why were you excited to get involved with Project Twenty21?
RM: I felt really passionate [about the project] because I had seen how helpful medicinal cannabis could be for many, many people. And as it’s very new in the UK, it was really exciting to be part of something that is at the forefront of what I believe is going to be one of the most important fields of medicine over the next decade.
CH: What is the importance of data in prescribing medical cannabis?
RM: It was really important for me to be part of this project because of all the amazing data that this is going to give us as it progresses.
I think one of the key things as a medicinal cannabis prescriber is being asked about data and where the evidence is. The fact that we have this wonderful project that’s capturing data from people presenting lots of different conditions is so important to me because I want to be able to give people this evidence about how cannabis might help them and how it might help with particular symptoms.
CH: What are your hopes for Project Twenty21?
RM: The people that I’m working with really like feeling that they’re part of this project and they’re contributing to something that’s going to be really helpful for others. There’s a real sense of people wanting to help.
I hope that it means that we have this amazing array of data, which we can use to transform the way that medicinal cannabis is prescribed. And clearly, the end goal for me is that I would really like this to be available for people on the NHS so that there is equity of access for anybody who wants to consider it as a choice.
And alongside that, there’ll be data that can be published so that everybody across the world can learn from this.
If you’re a clinician who would like to know more about becoming a medical cannabis prescriber with Project Twenty21, please email email@example.com
Matthew Taylor shares his experience as a patient on Project Twenty21 here
Find out more about joining here
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