The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has published interim guidance for GPs on the use of medical cannabis products.
Under the recent legislative change, only doctors registered on the General Medical Council’s specialist register can prescribe the products — GPs who are not on this list cannot prescribe medical cannabis. However, the RCGP noted that GPs may experience requests for prescriptions, as well as for information and referrals.
Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said that the document “aims to be a quick reference guide for GPs, providing them with the information they may need when having discussions with patients who ask them about cannabis, and to make it clear to patients that GPs are not in a position to prescribe cannabis”.
The guidance outlines the different forms of medicinal cannabis, both licensed and unlicensed, alongside the conditions and symptoms for which such medicines are commonly requested. It also gives a brief outline of the legislative change and signposts to sources of more detailed information for clinicians.
It is important for GPs to manage expectations when referring a patient to a specialist with a view to obtaining a medicinal cannabis prescription, the guidance says. Patients and carers should be made aware that the “new and complicated process” of obtaining a medical cannabis prescription is likely to be slow, and that most patients will not receive the drug.
The guidance also warns of a potential unintended consequence of the legislative change: increased referral rates may result in patients having to wait longer to see a neurologist.