A group of leading doctors have today launched Sapphire Medical Clinic, the first clinic in the UK which can offer access to medicinal cannabis for all conditions acknowledged to benefit from it. The Harley Street, London, based clinic will offer access to medicinal cannabis as part of a comprehensive treatment pathway, including other conventional pharmaceutical drugs and treatments.
The Sapphire team includes specialists in paediatric & adult neurology, palliative care, psychiatry, gastroenterology, acute general medicine and neuropathic pain. The team can replicate the multi-disciplinary approach championed by the MHRA and NHS England as the safe and proper way to consider medicinal cannabis prescriptions. The GMC, MHRA and NHS England guidelines provide the basis for the rigorous Standard Operating Procedures that the clinicians will adhere to.
The clinics will operate primarily on a second-opinion basis whereby patients can be referred by their GP or Hospital Consultant. GPs and Hospital Consultants will be able to refer patients from today online by visiting https://www.sapphireclinics.com/refer-a-patient/
Dr Mikael Sodergren MBChB, DIC, PhD, FRCS, Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer and Consultant Hepatobiliary & Pancreatic Surgeon at Imperial College, and Managing Director and Academic Lead at Sapphire Medical Clinics said:
‘This will be a lifeline for GPs who have patients presenting with conditions that they think cannabis-based products could provide relief from, but don’t have the knowledge or expertise to prescribe it themselves. GPs can now be sure that their patients are being treated by world-class experts in their conditions who understand cannabis as a medicine and how it interacts with other treatments a patient might be on. As clinicians, we are glad that we can offer patients this opportunity when they may have exhausted all existing options available to them’.
‘We also want clinicians to be assured that our clinics are based on the premise that patients are treated by our world-renowned specialists in the relevant condition. We have the expertise to prescribe medicinal cannabis in a way that fits in with other more conventional treatments as and when we judge that to be in the best interest of the patients. 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’.
The plight of patients with severe intractable epilepsy has been widely reported in the media as patients have experienced difficulty in securing prescriptions for medicinal cannabis.
Commenting on this, Dr Michael Platt MA MBBS FRCA FFPMRCA, Medical Director of Sapphire 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. There are concerns about the evidence base for the prescription of medicinal cannabis products containing THC to children in terms of both efficacy and possible future harm. These concerns are reflected in the guidance from various medical bodies and in the understandable high degree of caution currently being shown by clinicians. But we are also aware of some anecdotal cases in which parents have been able to show that medicinal cannabis containing THC has had a strong positive impact on the children concerned. Our paediatric neurology service will offer consultations to the families of the children concerned with an open mind but would reserve the right not to prescribe medicinal cannabis containing THC’.
As recommended by NHS England, the Sapphire team have also announced that they have set up the first UK national patient registry for cannabis-based products. The registry will provide crucial data as the field of medicinal cannabis evolves in the UK and will allow clinicians to base prescribing patterns on the best available evidence whilst waiting for clinical trials. Given the importance of generating high level evidence, Sapphire will crucially allow patients access to clinical trials through the ‘clinical trial hub’ through which patients can access studies nationally and through which academia, industry, regulators and funding bodies can deliver collaborative research projects aimed to generate the data necessary to inform public policy recommendations and support drug licensing.
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’.
‘Despite the law change in 2018 patients are generally unable to secure this treatment via the NHS. And our understanding is that one of the biggest barriers is the existing evidence base for efficacy across different conditions. Building a reliable database of evidence is critically important in order for medical cannabis to be accepted in the medical mainstream’.