Import restrictions for cannabis-based medicines in UK updated

The UK government has changed the restrictions on importing cannabis-based medicine products into the country, allowing wholesalers to bring in larger quantities.

Cannabis and cannabis oil

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that import restrictions for cannabis-based medicines have been changed for the UK. 

According to the regulatory body, licensed wholesalers will now be able to:

  • import larger quantities of cannabis-based products
  • hold supplies for future use by patients with prescriptions.

The DHSC says that most cannabis-based medicines are imported from foreign countries; export restrictions mean it can take weeks or months for the drugs to reach the patients in the UK. For example, in Canada, an export certificate can take four to eight weeks.

Therefore, the import restrictions have been altered to help ensure people with prescriptions for cannabis-based products for medicinal use do not have their treatment delayed or interrupted.

In addition, safeguards against addiction and the misuse of drugs mean that patients with prescriptions for unlicensed medicines, such as medicinal cannabis, need to have their prescription reviewed every 30 days by specialist doctors. This can lead to delays in treatment if there are also delays to imports.

…export restrictions mean it can take weeks or months for the drugs to reach the patients”

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The changes made today are a tremendous step towards improving the supply of cannabis-based medicinal products by helping to ensure quicker and more reliable access for patients. But we still have a long way to go. We need more research into the quality and safety of these medicines and to do all we can to cut down the costs and remove barriers so that, when appropriate, patients can access it, including on the National Health Service (NHS).”

The government also says it is working with the pharmaceutical industry to explore further ways to reduce costs and encourage more research into uninterrupted access to cannabis-based medicinal products where clinically appropriate.

The new measures will be implemented by the Home Office and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) from 2 March.