Cannabis-based medicinal products to be made available in Northern Ireland

Cannabis-based medicinal products are set to be made available in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health has announced that it is taking measures to enable patients for the first time to be prescribed cannabis-based medicinal products without a licence.

Charlotte Caldwell with son Billy pictured earlier this year. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Charlotte Caldwell with son Billy pictured earlier this year. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The change will come into force on November 1.

It mirrors similar changes which will occur in England, Wales and Scotland.

The new regulations come following several high-profile cases, including that of young epilepsy sufferer Billy Caldwell from Castlederg, Co Tyrone.

His mother Charlotte led a campaign to allow her son to be treated with medicinal cannabis products, saying it helps to ease his symptoms.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health says the amendments implement the recent expert advice from the Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in relation to cannabis-based medicines and will ensure a consistent approach in terms of regulation and patient access across the UK.

In a statement, the department said it has worked alongside the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to develop additional frameworks and clinical guidelines to ensure that cannabis-based medicinal products can be prescribed safely and effectively to patients while at the same time ensuring they are not misused.

However the department has pointed out that the rescheduling of cannabis-based medicinal products does not pave the way towards legalising cannabis for recreational use.

The penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged.

Doctors on the General Medical Council’s specialist register will be able to decide to prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products where their use is deemed clinically appropriate and in the best interests of patients.