London’s first private clinic to offer medical cannabis to children opened on Wednesday, with one leading physician referring to the treatment as a ‘new and exciting field.’ The Harley Street-based Sapphire Medical Clinic was launched by a group of influential doctors. It is the first clinic in the UK which can offer access to medicinal cannabis for all conditions acknowledged to benefit from it and to do so as part of a comprehensive treatment pathway, including other conventional pharmaceutical drugs and treatments.
Dr Mikael Sodergren, Managing Director and Academic Lead at Sapphire said in a statement: “Medicinal cannabis is a new and exciting field. But it is important that access to it is delivered in a way that fits in with other treatment options. Our clinics are based on the premise that patients are treated by our world-renowned specialists in the relevant condition.”
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Expertise in prescribing medical cannabis
“Our service to patients will work on the basis of ‘we are specialists in your condition, and our aim is to help you get better which may, or may not, involve medical cannabis, which we have the expertise to prescribe', rather than ‘come to us to try medical cannabis'. Operating in this way means that doctors can have the confidence to refer their patients to us, and patients can have the confidence that we will prescribe medicinal cannabis in a way that fits in with other treatments.”
Sapphire is fully controlled by the founding doctors and therefore the clinicians have complete freedom to prescribe any range of medicinal cannabis products from any available supplier.
The team involved have also announced that they will build the first UK wide national database recording how patients react to medicinal cannabis.
Dr Sodergren added: “The medical world needs more evidence about the efficacy of medicinal cannabis and our national database will be a major contribution to meet that need. It will be the first to have meaningful and consistent data of how medicinal cannabis has helped when properly prescribed as part of a full treatment pathway.”
The Sapphire doctors are all highly qualified specialists in their respective fields and include world-leading experts such as pain specialist Dr Michael Platt, who frequently treats complex patients referred from the UK and abroad. In addition, the Sapphire team includes specialists in paediatric & adult neurology, palliative care, psychiatry, gastroenterology, acute general medicine, neuropathic pain and back pain, and can replicate the multidisciplinary approach championed by the MHRA and NHS England as the safe and proper way to consider medicinal cannabis prescriptions.
The evolution of medical cannabis in the UK fueled by demand
This progress in the evolution of medical cannabis in the UK is just the latest milestone in a gradual attempt by the medical community to satisfy demand by the public to ensure the substance increases in availability for those in most need. It has been widely reported in the media that parents with children suffering from intractable epilepsy continue to experience difficulties in securing prescriptions for medical cannabis products containing THC.
Dr Michael Platt, Medical Director of Sapphire Medical Clinics said: “As part of our portfolio of services we are prepared to offer evaluative consultations to families with children affected by intractable epilepsy for consideration of Cannabis-based products for medicinal use.” Platt added that cannabis is “not a ‘silver bullet' or ‘miracle cure' and will not be appropriate for every patient.”
“The only way to ensure the best outcome for patients is to treat their condition using a mix of clinical interventions which may or may not include medicinal cannabis, rather than to lead on offering medicinal cannabis almost as the first option. That latter approach may not be in the best interest of the patient and will lead to data on efficacy that will not be reliable as other approaches may have been more appropriate.” The clinic is the first of what will grow into a national network. It will primarily work on a second opinion basis accepting referrals from GPs and other specialists.
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Integrating cannabis with traditional treatment options
The Sapphire team have expressed their willingness to work with the NHS to bring their approach of offering access to medicinal cannabis in a way that is integrated with other treatment options to clinicians that currently lack the training and knowledge to prescribe medicinal cannabis.
The only existing UK clinic offering medical cannabis opened in Cheadle, Greater Manchester in March. That company, The Medical Cannabis Clinics, plans to open a London branch sometime this summer, but will not have a paediatric department at the outset.