The price of cannabis: what you’re paying for and do UK prices stack up to their Australian counterparts?
Prices of medical cannabis and over-the-counter CBD products can vary substantially in the UK. To get a clear understanding of what you’re paying for and how much you should be paying for it, it is essential to have an understanding of what counts in terms of dose and therapeutic ingredients.
To clarify some of the confusion around pricing, Australia has been used as a comparable market to compare prices and highlight the aspects you should feel comfortable paying a few more pennies for.
The price of cannabinoids in the UK
The price of medical cannabis can differ wildly in the UK depending on the manufacturer, import costs, the ratio of THC to CBD and type of product – be it oil, tincture, flower or spray. Additionally, the cost of medical cannabis is largely dependent on the dose. Some conditions require much higher quantities of cannabinoids than others.
The cost of prescription-only CBD medication prices are often similar to over-the-counter CBD supplements. The cost of a standard CBD-only prescription can cost anywhere from between £7.50 and £15 per 100mg, depending on the manufacturer. Surprisingly, some of the top-selling high street brands can cost even more, despite not having to comply with the same standards as prescription-only CBD.
Traditionally THC has been expensive. As there’s been little in the way of reporting on the steady decline in cost of THC, many people still have sensationalist media reports circling in their minds of medical cannabis costing tens of thousands per year.
Some of the conditions that show the best results with medical cannabis treatments are those that require high doses. So while for some families, costs in the long term can be prohibitive, largely the price of THC has decreased in recent years, leading to the decrease in overall costs of medical cannabis treatments.
Taking all this into account, the average cost of medical cannabis prescriptions in the UK sits at around £150-£250 per month for a THC and CBD inclusive prescription. At Cannabis Access Clinics UK, we have observed that an initial CBD-only prescription will typically cost patients an average £100-£150 per month. Once again this is all dose-dependent, some conditions like severe epileptic disorders require much higher doses.
What is the difference between over-the-counter CBD and medical cannabis?
In the UK a GMC-registered specialist doctor’s prescription is required to receive medical cannabis, and this can include prescriptions of THC-only, CBD-only and products that include a range of cannabinoids. Over-the-counter CBD products can be bought in-store or online, do not (or should not) include THC and are not subject to the rigorous testing protocols medicinal products are.
Essentially, store-bought and pharmaceutical CBD should be the same, that is to say, the cannabinoid constituent has the same structure. However, the degree to which over-the-counter CBD products are tested for quantity of therapeutic ingredients and adulteration is rarely to the standard of prescription-only CBD. Additionally, pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products are grown and manufactured to a set of clinically defined standards that assure their quality, consistency and lack of contamination.
What to consider in your store-bought CBD product?
Labelling can be confusing at the best of times. Just like comprehending nutritional panels is an art of discernment, so too is understanding the range of ways cannabinoid content is expressed on the bottle.
Some products will show the total milligrams (mg) of CBD for the entire bottle, others will express a percentage of CBD for the total product. Lastly, arguably the most simple way to understand the potency and therefore the dose of a product, is by showing the ratio of milligrams of CBD per millilitre of liquid.
At the end of the day, it’s the cost of the therapeutic ingredient that matters, not the eye-catching fancy brand. By breaking down the cost of cannabinoid per mL, it can be easier to figure out how much you’re paying for a therapeutic dose, rather than by the quantity of liquid.
Another consideration is the quality of your over-the-counter products. The Centre for Medical Cannabis released a report in mid-2019 showing that as much as 60% of high street pharmacy-obtained products were inaccurate in their labelling. Thus it may be worth the extra few pounds investing in a product that has been independently analysed for its cannabinoid content.
Industry and patients alike can attest to the fact that obtaining access to medical cannabis in the UK can still be an arduous process. Regardless, if you’re looking at using any kind of cannabinoid product for therapeutic purposes, it’s important to talk with your GP or one of our specialists of Cannabis Access Clinics UK to determine if it’s appropriate for your condition.
How the UK compares to Australia
Unlike the UK, Australia does not have a legal CBD market, therefore Australians are unable to access CBD at their local pharmacy as we can in the UK. However, their medical cannabis landscape is beginning to establish strong roots, while ours here is still in its seedling stage.
When comparing costs across multi-cannabinoid medical formulations, the average price in Australia is approximately AUD$10-15 per day. Data from FreshLeaf Analytics shows that around 50% of patients are spending less than AUD$10 per day, which equates to roughly £150 per month.
Cost of cannabis prescriptions in Australia have also steadily declined since the advent of their medical cannabis system. A decline of nearly 20% has been seen in Aussie prices since the middle of 2019. This pattern of prices declining as the Australian medical cannabis industry developed, bodes well for costs to UK patients in the future.
So, average UK product prices are more expensive, but have recently become more reasonable comparable to our Commonwealth cousin. Fortunately for Australian patients, access has gotten much easier in the past 2 years with regulatory changes facilitating speedier and less burdensome pathways to access for both patients and prescribers.
For many, the reported cost of medical cannabis may restrict individuals from even investigating it as an option, but don’t let sensationalist reports let you think it’s completely out of reach. In some cases, prescribed CBD can be even cheaper and of a higher quality than products that can be obtained over the counter.
With Australia’s example in mind, UK patients can be hopeful for steady decreases in medical cannabis costs as the local and global industry continues to grow in both integrity as an evidence-based treatment and in its accessibility to patients who need it most.