The UK government has said the National Institute for Health Research will soon begin large-scale trials of medicinal cannabis as an epilepsy treatment.

The country’s National Health Service (NHS) currently only prescribes medicinal cannabis as a last resort, with very few prescriptions issued for it.

NHS commissioning body the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises there is “insufficient evidence” for its use, but doctors may consider it when “clinically appropriate in an individual case”.

The government has now backed two large-scale randomised controlled trials to provide evidence, with details still to be finalised.

UK health minister Maria Caulfield

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine, who has previously tabled a private members bill to legalise medicinal cannabis, told The Independent: “Families across the UK are waiting desperately for these medical cannabis trials to begin. We’ve seen the huge impact these treatments can have and the way they can give people their lives back.”

“It’s welcome that trials are planned, but they must begin immediately, so we can begin to roll out these treatments as soon as possible.”

Health minister Maria Caulfield said: “NICE reviewed the best available evidence when developing its guidelines on prescribing cannabis-based medicinal products.

“However, NICE found that current research is limited and of low quality. Observational studies with a small number of patients do not produce results which are sufficiently robust to inform routine clinical or commissioning decisions.

“To develop evidence on medical cannabis, the department, via the National Institute for Health Research, will be supporting two randomised controlled trials into epilepsy in adults and children.

“The trials will commence as soon as possible and results will be published once the trials have completed and the findings have been peer reviewed.”

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...