Children in London will soon have an outlet through which they can treat chronic illnesses with medical marijuana.
The Sapphire Medical Clinic is set to open next week in the British capital, making it the first private clinic in the city to offer medicinal cannabis prescriptions to youngsters. It is slated to open its doors on August 1.
The clinic has an ambitious directive, saying that it can prescribe marijuana for “all conditions acknowledged to benefit from it,” while promising to consult all families “with an open mind.”
The opening of Sapphire represents something of a milestone in the United Kingdom, where medical cannabis was made legal last year but where it remains maddeningly out of reach for many patients who want the treatment.
British home secretary Sajid Javid announced last year that doctors in the United Kingdom would be able to prescribe medical marijuana for patients, a decision that came after a long-running campaign inspired by two high-profile cases involving children who suffer from a form of epilepsy that is mitigated by the use of cannabis oil.
“I have been clear that my intention was always to ensure that patients have access to the most appropriate course of medical treatment,” Javid said in his announcement at the time. “I stressed the importance of acting swiftly to ensure that where medically appropriate, these products could be available to be prescribed to patients.”
But nearly a year later, the treatment remains painfully elusive for many patients, as it can only be prescribed by specialists, and cannot be imported without an issued prescription. And parents have said that getting a prescription for their children is virtually impossible within Britain’s National Health Service, according to the Evening Standard.
Last month, the Canada-based Aurora Cannabis, the largest medical cannabis company in the world, lobbied the British government to become a “leader not a laggard” in the industry.
“What was the point of creating a medical cannabis system if patients can’t access it?” Cam Battley, CCO of Aurora Cannabis, said at a conference in London.
So far, the lone clinic in the United Kingdom that offers medical marijuana is located in the greater Manchester area. According to the Evening Standard, the company behind that clinic, the Medical Cannabis Clinics, has plans to open a location in London, but will not have a pediatrics department.
Enter Sapphire Medical Clinic, which boasts that it will have “complete freedom to prescribe any range of medicinal cannabis products from any available supplier.” Its London location will be the first in what will ultimately become a nationwide network of clinics.
Dr. Michael Platt, a pain specialist at Sapphire, said that the clinic is “prepared to offer evaluative consultations to families with children affected by intractable epilepsy for consideration of cannabis-based products for medicinal use.”
“Our paediatric neurology service will offer consultations to the families of the children … with an open mind but would reserve the right not to prescribe medicinal cannabis containing THC,” Platt told the Evening Standard.