Kicking off the New Year - and a new year of fresh developments for Medical Cannabis - our very own Dr Leon Barron recently recorded a podcast for The Cannabis Conversation. Speaking with Anuj Desai, creator of The Cannabis Conversation, Dr Barron shared his thoughts on the practical difficulties of patients accessing medical cannabis therapies.
In his own words, Dr Barron came across Medical Cannabis just over two-years ago when high-profile media cases began to surface. Roughly at the same time, a relative of his was undergoing Medical Cannabis treatments with significant positive effects.
Dr Barron said: “I began carrying out some research and looking into early-pioneers of Medical Cannabis and how it could potentially change clinical practice within the UK. It was then, I joined the Clinicians Society and began working to ensure Medical Cannabis is more understood within the UK and could be passed as a legal prescription.”
A growing conversation
Although Medical Cannabis is still a growing conversation, many people only become aware of this as an option after they have failed to respond to existing conventional/ licensed treatments. More and more people are also using turning to over the counter CBD products with the hope that these will help with poorly controlled symptoms/ conditions. This past year we have seen an unprecedented number of widely available CBD products hit the high street and internet (many of which are unregulated).
While it has been over a year since the law in the UK changed to enable patients to access cannabis based medical products via a doctor on the GMC specialist register, it is still highly under-prescribed. After legislation change in November 2018 there was significant hype in the mainstream media and high expectations from some patients, many of whom feel let down that they are still unable to access suitable products despite a strong clinical need. Dr Barron says the reality within primary care is that the conversation continues and that he is asked on a regular basis by his patients about the possibility of Medical Cannabis as a treatment option.
Guidelines from NICE and from a number of professional bodies including the RCP and BPNA remain fairly conservative in their views on wider access of cannabis based medical products, particularly with regards to full spectrum/ whole plant products citing a lack of evidence and lack of available randomised controlled trials.
“Many doctors from overseas would rather prescribe Cannabinoids over Opioids - whereas in the UK, doctors continue to prescribe patients more traditional methods of medication which have plenty of side-effects and aren’t always effective,” continues Dr Barron.
“The risks surrounding cannabis-based products are often lower than the risks associated with commonly used opioid treatments - which suggests it is time for change.”
Current NICE guidelines - the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence - do state that certain products can be prescribed by specialist doctors although these are limited to a few specific products and conditions.
Dr Barron shared: “I’d love to see a system which is open to compassionate prescribing - in much of Europe the discretion is down to the GP who is treating their patient. As long as the patient has received enough information to be well informed about their choice, the medication can be prescribed. If that could happen in the UK - we could make serious moves.”
Moving forwards into 2020
The Primary Care Cannabis Network is wanting to expand the knowledge of cannabis-based medical treatments and is focussed on academic research, education, key-papers and open discussions.
As more GPs across the UK reach out to the Primary Care Cannabis Network for more information on Medical Cannabis, a bigger community is forming which will enable GPs to confidently work together to understand the various regulatory pathways that exist within the UK.
Moving forwards into 2020, the PCCN will host a series of events on Medical Cannabis and will also be key-note speakers at other seminars within industry. For more information on these events or to be kept up-to-date with the latest news and member meeting, subscribe to our Journal Club today.