FOI 32048



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]

FOI 32048

Thank you for your request for information as outlined below:

Hi, I would like an update on the information provided as part of FOI 23354. Specifically, I would like to know how many items of unlicensed medical cannabis were dispensed to patients each month in England from 01.01.2021 until the latest date for which data is available. If the data on what formats these were e.g. oil or extract, or what average amount was dispensed that would be great too but failing this, just the number of items prescribed would be of interest. Thank you in advance.

Your request was received on 8th February 2023 and I am dealing with it under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.


NHS Unlicenced Drugs

We are not able to release the information requested regarding the prescribing of NHS Unlicenced Cannabis. This is due to the risk of patients being identified, if this information was used in combination with other information that may be in the public domain or reasonably available. This includes 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 Unlicenced Drugs

Information on costs for private prescriptions are not held. The NHSBSA receives private prescriptions for controlled drugs, to allow for monitoring. However, the NHSBSA does not reimburse prices to pharmacies for private prescriptions, and therefore we do not know the cost. In addition, we do not hold information on the average quantity dispensed. Unlicensed cannabis products are not populated on our drug database so there is no way of standardising the units of measure that have been written and captured on a private prescription. Even for drugs populated on our database we would only work out an average for products that are the same unit of measure so we would never aggregate tablets and liquids or tablets liquids and grams. Please see attached the remaining data which we do hold.

There are two csv completed files, part 1 provides a monthly breakdown of private prescribing for unlicensed cannabis-based medicines.

Part 2 provides a drug list of the prescribed unlicensed cannabis-based products. This is a unique list of product names as captured with no cleansing made to this list of products. Therefore, this list is indicative of the drugs prescribed and may contain duplicates and misspellings as these are captured as free text via data entry. A manual prescription search of private prescriptions that has been taken from data captured as unspecified prescribing and reported as ‘Unspecified Drugs’ within our ePACT2 system.

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

January 2021 to August 2022 (monthly). August 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.

Data Queries

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 March 8, 2023, 14:55 (UTC)
Created March 8, 2023, 14:53 (UTC)