If you’re passionate about drug reform in the UK, you’ll already be aware that in November 2018 the law was changed allowing cannabis to be legally prescribed for certain conditions. The moment was heralded as a turning point by activists, who for years campaigned for greater patient access to the plant for patients in need.
However, the policy change wasn’t quite the happy ending many had wished for. The NHS and NICE have been reluctant to recommend that cannabis be prescribed to patients, with only three known prescriptions written by doctors since the law changed.
In lieu of NHS access, a buoyant private medical cannabis industry has emerged in the UK. Patients who have tried 2 or more treatments for certain conditions can obtain cannabis legally through clinics such as Mamedica.
Mamedica is the 4th company in the UK licenced to prescribe and dispense medical cannabis to treat patients who suffer from pain, psychiatry, neurology and cancer-related conditions. The company provides expert initial evaluation and aftercare through online consultations, with medication being delivered securely to patients by courier.
While access is now becoming easier thanks to private clinics, prescribing cannabis is no easy business, and many of the early companies have experienced teething problems, much to the chagrin of patients. While it is early days for Mamedica, the company is hoping to improve the industry through patient-centric service. “Our prescribing process is completely impartial,” founder Jon Robson tells us. “Our primary objective is to ensure that our patients receive the highest quality medication available, regardless of who it is manufactured by or how much Mamedica makes on the product. Our service offers unrestricted access to the widest range of cannabis-based prescription medicines available in the UK, and our healthcare model has been designed to deliver the fastest speed of service, from initial consultation to the patient receiving their prescription.”
Our primary objective is to ensure that our patients receive the highest quality medication available, regardless of who it is manufactured by or how much Mamedica makes on the product
Another limiting factor of the private cannabis industry is the issue of cost. Many of the patients who stand to benefit the most from prescribed cannabis are understandably limited when it comes to working leaving them on a lower income. As a result, many people may meet the qualifying criteria for cannabis, but affordability can be a barrier. It’s an issue Jon is acutely aware of, “Ultimately, we want our services to be accessible to as many people as possible. As patient numbers increase, the cost of medication will decrease. This is something we have already started to see as new high-quality products from Grow Pharma and Cantourage are introduced. We do have plans to help patients who are veterans or on low-income benefits and will be announcing them imminently.”
The need for help for low-income patients is clear, yet another important part of helping more people access cannabis is education. Mamedica recently conducted a survey of 4000 Brits, finding that 84% of people were unaware that cannabis flower could be prescribed to patients, and 54% were unaware that cannabis could be prescribed legally at all. “We need to increase awareness around the fact that there is a legal pathway to cannabis,” Jon says. “We also need to provide education about this plant, which has been used as a medicine for 1000s of years. We need to destigmatise it, and change the preconception that a lot of people have previously had about medical cannabis users.”
Education is something that opened the founder’s eyes to the medical potential of cannabis. Like many people, Jon first became aware of cannabis in his teens, but during a trip to the US he saw the potential in the plant to change the lives of people who had been taking much stronger medications for a considerable amount of time. It was a more personal experience, however, that proved to be the catalyst for Mamedica. “At the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, one of my very close friends was having a particularly hard time due to the impact of the pandemic on his business. He was suffering from depression and anxiety and was a shadow of the person who I worked with 10 or 15 years ago. We met up again, probably a year later. To say he was a different person would be an understatement. He alluded to the fact that he’d recently obtained a private cannabis prescription from a clinic in the UK, but admitted the service he was receiving wasn’t as good as he’d hoped.
“As soon as I heard that, I instantly got to work trying to understand the patient experience, and how I could improve this. Crucially, it’s about putting the patient first, we will be there to hold our patients’ hands throughout the whole process.
“That’s why we’ve included touch points within our service. After the first prescription, we make a personal phone call to the patient to check in. How are you? How are you finding the first prescription? Do you have any questions?”
Crucially, it’s about putting the patient first, we will be there to hold our patients’ hands throughout the whole process.
As the nascent medical cannabis industry grows, patients need to be a priority, after all, without patients, there is no one to prescribe to. It’s vital that medicine becomes more accessible and a high level of care is prevalent throughout. Mamedica seems to have these commitments at the heart of what they do and if they continue to deliver on these promises the future should be brighter for those who need cannabis the most.