Is Harley Street a success or a scam?

Published Dec 8, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / ChristianChan

The prestigious address of Harley Street in London, UK, is home to the Sapphire Medical Clinic. The private entrance resembles many of the other practices on this street. There is, however, a noticeable difference with this clinic.

The Harley Street clinic, aka the Sapphire Medical Clinic, is the first in the UK to have approval from the healthcare watchdog, CQC Care Quality Commission, to prescribe medical cannabis treatments for its patients. Cannabis consultants at the clinic are leading experts with roles as NHS cannabis consultants.

Who seeks service at Harley Street?

Many of the patients that seek consultation from the Sapphire Medical Clinic feel that they have exhausted all other means to help with their medical conditions. A recently retired grandmother looked to the clinic on Harley Street to find a solution to her chronic pain, fibromyalgia, sleeping, and anxiety issues. The treatment her GP was offering did not do the job. In fact, it was failing miserably. Her GP's pills did not offer relief and they left her with undesirable side effects like brain fog.

Alfie Dingley, at age eight, was experiencing up to 75 seizures a day. In 2017 his mother obtained cannabis oil illegally from the Netherlands and administered it to her son. The seizures decreased.

Doctors have had the authority to prescribe marijuana for cannabis treatments here since November of 2018. This authority followed several high-profile cases for children living with a rare form of epilepsy.

Treatable conditions

List of some of the conditions that would be eligible for receiving cannabis treatments from the cannabis consultants at the Harley St clinic include:

  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Migraine nausea
  • Chemotherapy side effects like nausea
  • Insomnia

Even since the change in the law regarding cannabis was initiated, the NHS admits that very few cannabis prescriptions have been issued.

Numbers

Sapphire has seen more than 500 patients seek help at the Harley Street clinic, but support here does not come cheap. An initial consultation alone will cost a patient 150 pounds, and a follow-up consultation is required twice, which will cost 90 pounds per session. The prescription itself, which the patient receives,  will cost around 130 pounds for a month's supply. Depending on the type of remedy, the amount could be even higher.

Referrals

There is no requirement for a doctor’s referral when looking for cannabis consultation at the Harley Street clinic. Patients can self-refer provided that they have tried all first-line treatments offered for their medical condition. Dr. Sodergren states that The Sapphire turns away about 20 patients a day for various reasons. Many of the patients that are refused a cannabis consultant's opinion and assistance are children.

The majority of the children who have been turned away from this clinic live with health conditions other than cancer or epilepsy. Dr. Sodergren states that the lack of clinical evidence or studies to support the efficiency of cannabis as a treatment for those conditions is the problem. It significantly contributes to the refusal of those children to have access to the Harley Street clinic.

Differences

The two marijuana-based medications licensed for use by the NHS are Sativex for multiple sclerosis and Epidiolex, a cannabis oil containing CBD for the treatment of resistant epilepsy. These products are different from those that are available to consumers on High Street because the clinic’s gummies and oils are only a fraction of the strength of medicinal CBD.

Final words

The question of evidence is perhaps at the heart of the debate ongoing in the medical marijuana space regarding the beneficial use of cannabis for health issues. So, is the clinic on Harley Street a scam? Well, if we listen to the many patients who have been helped by their cannabis consultants, then the answer is no.

Big problems with todays medical cannabis industry

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