The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has issued advice and guidance to its members to help them deal with a rise in queries about cannabis-related products from the public.
The NPA said there has been a spike in queries from members about cannabis-derived products since the beginning of 2018. Queries from members continued, following the home secretary Sajid Javid’s announcement on 19 June 2018 of a two-part review, which considered the therapeutic evidence of cannabis and cannabis-related products, and whether medical cannabis should be rescheduled.
Public demand for these products could rise now that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has advised the Home Office that medicinal cannabis should be rescheduled, and following Javid’s announcement on 26 June 2018 that GPs across the UK will be able to prescribe cannabis-derived medicines by autumn 2018.
“Pharmacy teams have seen a considerable increase in requests for cannabis-related products from members of the public and we have been providing appropriate advice and guidance to NPA members in response,” a spokesperson for the NPA said.
“There are a number of legal, professional and ethical considerations around the sale or supply of cannabis oil and cannabidiol (CBD) containing products from community pharmacies. Additionally, the legality, safety and efficacy of cannabis oil and CBD-containing products is still uncertain. No guidance within the UK is currently available.”
The current spike in queries could be attributed “to heightened public awareness of these products through media and social media”, the NPA suggested.
In the absence of formal guidance, the NPA has advised members that before deciding to stock, sell, or supply such products they should consider a number of issues.
The NPA also cautioned that there was limited evidence of the clinical benefits and uses of cannabis oil and CBD-containing products, and that there may be potential clinical interactions with other medication that the customer may be taking — either prescribed or bought over the counter (OTC).
All products which are marketed for medical purposes in the UK require a marketing authorisation (product licence) from the Medicines and Healthcare product Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before they can be legally be sold or supplied. The NPA advised that for OTC supply, “it is prudent to check the legal status/licensing in order to make a legal sale”.
Some cannabis oil and CBD-containing products are marketed as food supplements. The NPA stressed that the packaging and promotional material — including social media — cannot make any medicinal claims, so it is inappropriate for pharmacy teams to advise customers on using cannabis oil and CBD-containing products to treat any medical condition.
Pharmacists should check whether the product contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) because if it does, this must not exceed 1mg per pack/preparation; furthermore, THC can cause physiological and psychoactive effects, and may affect driving ability, the NPA said.
The pharmacy body also reminded pharmacies that they “may remain liable for any future implications until the MHRA sets guidelines”.