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UK medical cannabis patient numbers could surge in 2023, but supply remains ‘inconsistent’

The UK is poised to become Europe’s second largest medical cannabis market this year.



Analysts have predicted that 2023 will see a significant increase in the number of patients accessing medical cannabis legally in the UK.

The UK is poised to become Europe’s second largest medical cannabis market, according to a new report, with a boost in patient numbers expected by the end of 2023. 

Industry analysts have predicted that 2023 will see a significant increase in the number of patients accessing medicinal cannabis legally in the UK.

According to a new report by Prohibition Partners, the country is set to become the second largest European market by the end of year, as patient numbers and demand continue to grow. 

In estimates seen by Cannabis Health, analysts predict that patient numbers will hit over 47,000 by the end of the year.

While there is no official data on the exact number of patients currently prescribed cannabis in the UK, experts believe the figure to be around 25,000-30,000, with more than 20 clinics prescribing the treatment privately. 

According to figures released by NHS Business Service Authority (NHSBSA) in January 2023, a total of 89,239 prescriptions for unlicensed cannabis medicines were issued between November 2018- July 2022, fewer than five of which were through the NHS.

Further data, provided to Prohibition Partners following an FOI request, detailing the number of unlicensed medical cannabis items being prescribed in England, shows a huge increase year-on-year since 2019.

Copyright: Prohibition Partners

Based on these figures, analysts calculate that the annual number of products prescribed during 2022 amounts to around 76,600, a 90% increase from the year before.

The report, which examines the outlook of the European medical cannabis industry, says demand continues to rise across the continent with sales projected to reach over €550 million by the end of 2023.

It identifies the UK and Germany as the two countries representing the ‘overwhelming majority’ of demand and expected to receive the majority of the new supply.

Is Germany heading towards an oversupply of products?

Germany still remains well ahead of the UK, with patient numbers predicted to reach over 230,000 this year. 

Despite these rising patient numbers, data on medical cannabis imports from the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM), suggests that the country could be facing an ‘oversupply’ of products. 

Copyright: Prohibition Partners

Though some imports are re-exported to other countries, demand for imports in the rest of Europe is not sufficient to account for the gap between imports and sales to pharmacies in Germany. 

While doctors and patients are reported to have a ‘diverse range’ of products available to them, ‘inconsistency in labelling’ and ‘confusion’ among doctors when prescribing is ‘exacerbated by an overwhelming array’ of different products, the authors say.

Reports from 2022 have also indicated that many products do not make it to patients before their expiration date.

UK supply remains ‘inconsistent’

Meanwhile in the UK, product supply remains ‘inconsistent’, according to the report. 

The authors use the database, MedbudWiki, which aims to track the availability of products in real-time, to form a picture of the current supply. Out of 202 total products, only 88 were listed as available at the time data was collected. 

Copyright: Prohibition Partners

The report puts this inconsistency partly down to the ‘bureaucracy’ involved in the importation process, which requires prescribing doctors to write a letter of ‘anticipated demand’ in order for products to be imported in bulk.

In the letter, which is estimated to cost around £1,000 in time and administration fees (and can only be used once), the doctor must state a requirement for specific quantities of named products for their prescription purposes.

The report also examines the current cost of products in the UK. Price is crucial for UK patients, with limited access on the NHS and the majority having to fund the treatment privately.

As market demand and competition increases, the average price of products is slowly coming down.

According to the report, price per millilitre of oil (extract) fell between €2 (£1.76) and €12 per millilitre (£10.56), while flowers were in the range of €6 (£5.28) to €14 (£12.32) per gram, with most products costing between €8.40 (£7.39) and €9.60 (£8.45) per gram.


Copyright: Prohibition Partners

Copyright: Prohibition Partners


Read more and download the report here 

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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister title and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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