FOI 27715



Freedom of Information Disclosure Log

The NHSBSA's responses to Freedom of Information requests. read more


Open Government Licence 2.0 (United Kingdom) [Open Data]

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FOI 27715

Thank you for your request for information about the following:

‘I would like to know the number of prescription items that have been dispensed for unlicensed cannabis-based products for medicinal use, both NHS and private, each month since November 2018. I would also like a summary of the names of the drugs prescribed/dispensed.’

Your request was received on 21 September 2022 and has been dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.


A copy of the information is attached.

NHS Unlicenced Drugs

Please be aware that I have decided not to release the information on prescribing of NHS Unlicenced Cannabis. This is because the patients could be identified, when combined with other information that may be in the public domain or reasonably available, such as media coverage about cannabis prescribing and the small number of people receiving these drugs.

This information falls under the exemption in section 40 subsections 2 and 3A (a) of the Freedom of Information Act.

This is because it would breach the first data protection principle as:

a) it is not fair to disclose patients personal details to the world and is likely to cause damage or distress.

b) these details are not of sufficient interest to the public to warrant an intrusion into the privacy of the patients.

Please click the below web link to see the exemption in full.

Breach of Patient confidentiality

Please note that the identification of patients is also a breach of the common law duty of confidence. A patient who has been identified could make a claim against the NHSBSA or yourself for the disclosure of the confidential information.

The information requested is therefore being withheld as it falls under the exemption in section 41(1) ‘Information provided in confidence’ of the Freedom of Information Act.

Please click the below web link to see the exemption in full.

Private Prescribing


NHS Prescription Services process prescriptions for Pharmacy Contractors, Appliance Contractors,

Dispensing Doctors and Personal Administration with information then used to make payments to pharmacists and appliance contractors in England for prescriptions dispensed in primary care settings (other arrangements are in place for making payments to Dispensing Doctors and Personal Administration). This involves processing over 1 billion prescription items and payments totalling over £9 billion each year. The information gathered from this process is then used to provide information on costs and trends in prescribing in England and Wales to over 25,000 registered NHS and Department of Health and Social Care users Privately prescribed items are submitted to the NHSBSA for reporting and monitoring purposes only.


This dataset shows total items for Private prescriptions for unlicensed cannabis-based products.

Also provided is a drug list of the prescribed unlicensed cannabis-based products.

Data Source

When prescriptions are processed by NHSBSA data capture, prescriptions sometimes contain prescribing of medicines that were not populated on the NHSBSA drug database at the time. This type of order will be captured as an ‘unspecified drug’. Data for prescribing of unlicensed cannabis-based medicines has been taken from data captured as unspecified prescribing. Unlicensed cannabis-based medicines are identified by an additional review process which occurs after the prescriptions have been processed. The items identified by this review are reported against the date that the prescription was written and not necessarily when they were submitted. Therefore, these figures may be subject to change if the prescription is submitted to the NHSBSA in a later month.

Time Period

November 2018 to May 2022 (monthly). May 2022 is currently the latest data available.

Organisation Data

Data for private unlicensed prescriptions is limited to prescriptions dispensed in England


Items shows the number of times a product appears on a prescription form not the quantity prescribed.

If you have any queries regarding the data provided, or if you plan on publishing the data, please contact ensuring you quote the above reference. This is important to ensure that the figures are not misunderstood or misrepresented.

If you plan on producing a press or broadcast story based upon the data please contact This is important to ensure that the figures are not misunderstood or misrepresented.

The information supplied to you continues to be protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and is subject to NHSBSA copyright. This information is licenced under the terms of the Open Government Licence detailed at:

Should you wish to re-use the information you must include the following statement:

“NHSBSA Copyright 2022” This information is licenced under the terms of the Open Government Licence:

Failure to do so is a breach of the terms of the licence.

Information you receive which is not subject to NHSBSA Copyright continues to be protected by the copyright of the person, or organisation, from which the information originated.

Please obtain their permission before reproducing any third party (non NHSBSA Copyright) information.

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Contact Information Governance
State active
Last Updated October 18, 2022, 11:22 (UTC)
Created October 18, 2022, 11:16 (UTC)