MORE than a dozen prescriptions for medical cannabis have been handed out to residents in Barnsley in the last five years, the Chronicle can reveal.

Figures from the NHS Open Prescribing service show 17 prescriptions have been given out by GPs for these medications in the former NHS Barnsley CCG area over the past five years.

They were prescribed three times by GPs in 2022 - the same as in 2021.

However, this means 1,710 individual doses of the drug were prescribed last year - more than 1,350 the year before.

These drugs are only used to treat certain types of MS and contain the active ingredients tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol found in cannabis plants.

While rarely prescribed, CBD is widely available on UK high streets - albeit in varying strength and quality.

Meanwhile, substances containing THC remain illegal outside of specific medical uses.

This data shows the number of prescriptions given by GPs, rather than patients - a single patient may have been prescribed a drug multiple times over the same year.

Prescription medication can also be dispensed directly by hospitals - with previous research by the MS Society charity suggesting more than half of prescribing of sativex is through secondary care.

Across England, 2,953 prescriptions were provided by GPs for sativex and similar drugs in 2022 - up 56 per cent from 1,893 the year before.

The MS Society has been campaigning to make sativex more widely available, and said despite increased availability, some health bodies will not currently fund the drug.

Across the country there were just 23 GP prescriptions for cannabidiol (CBD) based medications in 2022, which are generally used for treatment-resistant epilepsy - none of which were in Barnsley.

The NHS is hesitant to widely prescribe these medicines due to limited evidence on their effectiveness and high costs.

However, the charity Epilepsy Action said access to medicinal cannabis can make a ‘massive difference’ in reducing seizures when other treatments are not working.

Daniel Jennings, senior policy and campaigns officer at the charity, said: “While it may not be effective for some people with epilepsy, the impact on quality of life in successful cases is huge.”

He said that while these medications remain difficult to get hold of through the NHS, people with epilepsy face large bills for buying them from private providers - with almost 90,000 private prescriptions made between 2018 and 2022.

Nabilone - a drug which contains synthetic cannabinoids and is used to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy - was prescribed 371 times by GPs across England last year.

None of these were for patients in Barnsley.