Doctors are unwilling to prescribe medicinal cannabis because they know it has not been adequately tested, MPs have revealed.
A House of Commons health select committee said that the public were misinformed about access to the drug when doctors were permitted to prescribe it from November last year.
Medical professionals say “there is a perception that cannabis-based medicinal products work in areas where there is little or no evidence”.
Since 1 November 2018, doctors in the UK have been permitted to prescribe cannabis products that have not undergone clinical trials.
But in the lead up to the legalisation, almost 170 medics warned the change had been ‘rushed’.
Dr Rajesh Munglani, a Consultant in Pain Medicine at St Thomas Hospital London, said there was too little evidence of the drugs’ benefits to prescribe it freely.
He told The Times, politicians can’t ask doctors “to justify it on medical grounds if the evidence is not there”.
The President of the British Paediatric Neurology Association revealed that adequate trials were not carried out on cannabis products before they were licensed.
And the Chief Medical Officer for England also told MPs there is not enough evidence to prove that medicinal cannabis products are safe.
Consequently many doctors are refusing to prescribe the drug.
Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said: “Expectations were unfairly raised that these products would become widely and readily available, and there needs to be far clearer communication that this is not the case.”
“At present there are too many gaps in the evidence to allow most forms of medicinal cannabis to be licensed for use”.
Dr Amir Englund, a researcher in psychopharmacology at King’s College London, said the “exaggerated claims of cannabis as a treatment for various conditions which circulate online and in news articles” need to be addressed.
He told the committee, “clinical trials have found that a number of patients with epilepsy become seizure-free on medical grade [cannabis], however this only happens to roughly 5% of patients – which naturally becomes the focus of news stories”.
“The other side of the coin is that some patients in these trials drop out either because they felt no improvement or were experiencing side-effects.”