Medical Cannabis Clinic Spotlight: Releaf

by Katya Kowalski

Releaf is the newest medical cannabis clinic in the UK, entering the space with a refreshing perspective on how to address stigma, raise awareness and make the process for becoming a patient as easy as possible. We spoke to Releaf about their fresh approach and how they differ to the rest of the clinics across the UK. 

The current UK medical cannabis system

Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK on the 1st November 2018, following years of extensive campaigning. The current model allows patients to access medication via the NHS, or through private clinics. Regardless of access route, only clinicians on the General Medical Council’s (GMC) specialist register can prescribe cannabis – not GPs. 

NHS access to cannabis medicines is possible, although in practice it is rare. There are currently only 3 licensed cannabis-based medicinal products that can be prescribed on the NHS:

  • Nabilone (synthetic THC)- as a conjunctive treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting 
  • Sativex (THC:CBD spray)- for treating moderate to severe spasticity in adults with multiple sclerosis
  • Epidyolex (CBD isolate)prescribed alongside clobazam to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome in children

Any medical cannabis products outside of these are classed as unlicensed. Although unlicensed medicines can be prescribed on the NHS, only 5 NHS prescriptions have been issued for unlicensed CBPMs since 2018, and it’s rare for medicines to be reimbursed due to limited research into their cost effectiveness.

As many patients are unable to access medicinal cannabis via the NHS, the majority of prescribing takes place through private cannabis clinics. There are a number of private clinics in the UK which treat an estimated 25,000-32,000 patients. Private clinics allow patients to access a prescription provided they have a qualifying condition or symptom, have already tried two prescribed medications or therapies, and have no history of psychosis. 

Meet Releaf Medical Cannabis Clinic – the latest clinic to launch in the UK

The launch of Releaf eliminates previous barriers and brings about fundamental change to the UK’s CBPM sector. As the latest business to launch in the growing network of medical cannabis clinics in the UK, Releaf has a bold vision to become the UK’s leading medical cannabis clinic with a proprietary HealthTech operating platform that simplifies the patient experience with a seamless, single online journey for patients accessing CBPMs. 

Releaf prescribes medical cannabis for a range of conditions. Whilst the focus is primarily on chronic pain and psychiatry, their doctors can treat conditions that fall under gastroenterology, cancer, neurology, and sleep. The website gives a comprehensive breakdown of each condition category with useful information.

Easing the challenges faced by patients and alleviating the barriers to access are central to the clinic’s ethos. Releaf acknowledges that patients at other clinics consistently encounter ‘out-of-stocks’ when it comes to medical cannabis products. Therefore, lack of availability is a key concern the new clinic aims to address.

The cost of a prescription, and the fact that this can vary month to month, is another key issue faced by patients, along with the stigma still attached to cannabis.

Releaf’s solution to these issues is their all-in-one health tech operating platform, allowing patients unprecedented control of their medical cannabis prescription.

The clinic offers prescriptions under an “all-in-one” monthly subscription format through their Releaf+ scheme, which provides a flat monthly fee for cost predictability; inclusive of repeat prescriptions, medical cannabis patient card, travel certificates, postage, follow-up consultations, and member-only medication pricing.

Offering a monthly set fee ensures that patients can feel secure in their prescription costs and prevent unexpected costs from being a barrier to accessing medication.

As well as this, the doctors at Releaf provide patients with a range of strains depending on what may work best for treating their specific condition. Offering a high degree of choice reduces the likelihood of ‘out of stock’ situations whilst benefiting those with conditions characterised by flare-ups, such as IBS or patients with comorbid conditions for which several strains are used.

The Releaf+ Subscription

Releaf’s subscription format through their Releaf+ package is an all-inclusive medical cannabis healthcare plan that removes as many barriers as possible for care. It is a way to support patients by providing them with a new way to pay that is manageable and allows for predictable monthly costs. Releaf+ is a monthly subscription package priced at £39.99 a month. 

So, what’s included?

  • All doctor’s appointments after the initial consultation 
  • Dispensing of repeat prescriptions
  • Delivery of medication
  • Member-only prices for medication (£7.99 per gram for Releaf+ members, regular cost is £9.99 per gram)
  • Welcome box that contains an OMURA vaporiser and flower sticks, a puck, an odour-proof glass storage jar and a user guide to explain the whole process – valued at over £100
  • Requests for travel certificates free of charge.

Normalisation of cannabis as a medicine is central to the clinic’s outlook and key to reducing the stigma that patients continue to face. To overcome this barrier, Releaf have created a medical cannabis card as identification for patients receiving treatment from their clinic. 

The card digitally stores the relevant information of a patient’s prescription with a QR code that can be scanned by the police to confirm that the patient is in receipt of a legal medical cannabis prescription. All details are kept secured by a passcode that is only known to the patient. 

Releaf believes their medical cannabis card will also be useful for disclosing medical cannabis treatment to an employer, as the card and QR code allow for information to be presented in a legitimate format. Something like this has been lacking in the UK, with patients worrying about disclosing this information to third parties.

To ensure the process of acquiring a prescription is as quick and easy as possible, Releaf have daily multi-disciplinary team (MDT) sessions, which are essential for ratifying prescriptions as quickly as possible. To make the process of acquiring Summary Care records easier, they have also integrated with NHS digital. This means that Releaf patients will be able to get their prescriptions at a much quicker rate, reducing wait times. 

Meet the team 

  • Tim Kirby, Managing Director  – Tim brings many years experience in FTSE listed businesses. He is skilled in making opaque, complex, highly regulated markets feel transparent and simple at the point of need.

  • Graham Woodward, Chief Operating OfficerGraham is a trained psychiatric nurse who brings a wealth of expertise to our team. His background includes pivotal roles as a clinical director and quality assurance director, complemented by experience as a CQC inspector.

  • Dr David Tang, Medical Director – David is a leading medical cannabis doctor and an NHS emergency medicine consultant.

How do patients get a prescription? 

Releaf wants to make getting a medical cannabis prescription quick and easy. To make the process as simple as possible, they break it down into the following five steps: 

  1. Check your eligibilityBefore you book an appointment with one of the specialist doctors, the clinic has to ensure you’re eligible for treatment. To do this, Releaf reviews your Summary Care Record. You must also have already tried two prescribed medications which haven’t worked in treating your condition. Once the clinic has verified your eligibility, you will be invited to schedule an online video appointment.
  2. Video appointment-During your video appointment, the specialist will ask you a range of questions about your condition and the treatments you have tried in the past. This is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions you might have about the clinic and medical cannabis treatment. If the specialist feels medical cannabis is an appropriate treatment option for you, and the MDT agrees, they will issue you your first prescription, and you can then place your order for medical cannabis flower, or prescribed cannabis oil, online. 
  3. Welcome Pack and card-Once you’ve placed your order and checked out, your digital medical cannabis card will be immediately available and  your physical Releaf Medical Cannabis Card will be on their way in the post, along with your Welcome Box if you are a + member. The prescribing doctor gives  your prescription to Releaf’s in-house pharmacy, who will then dispense and deliver  your medication to you in discreet packaging.
  4. Follow-up consultation-During the first month, a member of the Releaf team will contact you to book a follow-up consultation. This allows the specialist to review your prescription and ensures you’re receiving the most appropriate treatment for your condition. Following a successful review of your treatment, the specialist will then issue a 3-month prescription. 
  5. Subscription package and 3 month follow-ups-You’ll continue to receive your Releaf subscription package every month, and any changes to your strain preferences will be automatically applied. You’ll meet with the specialist every 3 months for a follow-up to ensure that your treatment remains effective. 

What makes Releaf different from other medical cannabis clinics?

Having launched in an existing and competitive medical cannabis market, Releaf brings a lot of firsts, setting it aside from other clinics.

Subscription System: Unlike other clinics, Releaf provides a monthly all-in-one subscription service for their patients. This helps to keep costs down and ensures that patients aren’t met with any unexpected costs throughout the month.  What’s more, patients are also able to manage their condition in a specific and targeted way, with access to a range of appropriate strains. 

Medical Cannabis Card: The Releaf Medical Cannabis Card is available to patients in both a digital and physical format, and is a key tool for fighting stigma. The card is printed with the patient’s name, address, photo, doctor’s name and their GMC number. If you’re stopped by the police, they can scan the QR code on the card to view the relevant prescription information and verify that you are a legal medical cannabis patient. 

Integrated Payments: Releaf is the first cannabis clinic in the UK to be integrated with Stripe. This makes payments for patients significantly easier, allowing for a variety of payment methods and enabling direct payments through on their platform without being redirected to a separate site. This unblocks one of the many barriers for patients, providing an easy and streamlined service for receiving their medication.

Education: Releaf has built a cannabis educational portal with over 500 articles designed specifically for cannabis patients filled with answered FAQs and important information. It’s also legally validated by industry specialist lawyer, Robert Jappie.

Research: Releaf is actively producing research reports and polling to gain a better picture of the landscape, demographics, and public opinion surrounding medical cannabis in the UK. The organisation’s latest report ‘Say No to Pain’ provides valuable insight into the attitudes surrounding medical cannabis in the UK, and Releaf hopes to use these findings to help combat stigma and raise awareness through producing evidence-based reports.

How do patients get in touch

Now that you’re familiar with Releaf, it could be time to begin your medical cannabis treatment journey. 

Click here to find out more about the clinic and check your eligibility. 

You can contact Releaf via email, phone or live chat to chat to a member of their patient support team straight away.

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