‘Hardly any children have received medical cannabis in the seven months since its prescription was legalised, doctors say.
Former drugs tsar Professor David Nutt, a psychiatrist at Imperial College London, warned patients are suffering epileptic seizures as they struggle to get treatment.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, he said most doctors are ‘fearful’ of prescribing cannabis oil after decades of ‘absurd’ prohibition.
Prof Nutt said the roll out ‘has been much slower than patients and parents had hoped’.
‘Still only a tiny number of children with severe juvenile epilepsies are treated, and many others continue to have multiple seizures because neurologists will not prescribe,’ he wrote.
While it is now legal for specialist doctors to prescribe medical cannabis, the drug is not licenced as a medicine.
Prof Nutt, an expert in neuropsychopharmacology, suggested doctors could learn from the example of penicillin, which led to the development of antibiotics and a revolution in healthcare.
‘About 70 years ago another natural medicine came into the medical arena,’ he said.
‘This was welcomed enthusiastically by UK doctors even though there had been no placebo-controlled trials of its efficacy because it was seen to fulfil a major clinical need.
‘That drug was penicillin. If today’s medical profession could embrace cannabis in the same way as it did penicillin then the true value of this plant medicine should rapidly be realised.’
The law was changed in November last year to allow UK specialists or GPs acting under their instructions to prescribe medicinal cannabis, following several high-profile cases.
However Prof Nutt said the roll out ‘has been much slower than patients and parents had hoped’.’