Value-for-money is one of the factors under consideration in deciding NHS prescribing policy. Funding for a research project which will include a financial comparison of cannabis and other treatments for tackling chronic pain, alongside a consideration of cost and outcomes over a one-year time period, has been secured by industry member organisation the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) and independent, science-led drugs charity Drug Science.
According to a statement from the two organisations, the project will develop a flexible health economics analysis tool to evaluate the potential of cannabis prescriptions on the NHS. It will consider the costs, resource-use and utility of medical cannabis. It is envisaged the tool will assess the viability of prescribing cannabis on the NHS under different scientific assumptions. Drug Science will also make T21 project data available to the researchers; T21 is a scheme whereby patients can access medical cannabis treatment at a discounted price, and have their treatment tracked by Drug Science.
The project is to be led by York Health Economics Consortium. The backers are cultivators Glass Pharms, pharmaceutical company Ethypharm, and New Zealand-headquartered cultivator and medicinal products developer Rua Bioscience, with additional funding secured via an industry crowdfunder held in late 2022.
Anne Katrin Schlag, the head of research at Drug Science, comments, “Many patients are successfully using cannabis-based medicinal products to treat chronic pain. Unfortunately, in the UK, medical cannabis is not currently available through the NHS to treat this condition, meaning that patients face significant costs to access the medicine via private healthcare.
“Drug Science is excited that our health economics analysis is going ahead as, for any future NHS approval, it is important to find out whether medical cannabis will be cost-effective when compared to other treatments currently available.”
The CEO of one of the backers, Glass Pharms, James Duckenfield adds, “A recent study published in the US has shown chronic pain patients using medical cannabis were able to reduce their use of other pain medications by more than 50%. If the NHS was to offer this in the UK, we could see benefits both for patients and potential cost savings for healthcare.
“We are supporting this health economics analysis to help provide the data needed for the NHS to make an informed decision on this.”
Mike Morgan-Giles, CEO of the CIC agrees: “Providing the NHS with the economic case for expanding cannabis prescriptions is critical if we are to help patients obtain the medicine they need to treat their conditions.”
It is expected that the project will be completed in the first half of 2023.