This Thursday 30th April, Dr Leon Barron of The Primary Care Cannabis Network, will co-host a webinar with Professor Dedi Meiri, exploring the Future of Medical Cannabis.
The second episode in a series of webinars, in collaboration with The Technion, the two professionals will be discussing the use of the cannabis plant, and what current research projects into the medicine could hold for the future.
The current situation in the UK
Since November 2018, when the UK Government rescheduled cannabis for medical purposes, only a few hundred scripts for whole plant cannabis products has been issued to patients. The majority of which have been through the private sector at a high price for individual patients – some of whom are spending hundreds or even thousands of pounds each month to fund their private treatments. The difficulties in obtaining cannabis-based medicines through the NHS has already resulted in a two-tiered system within the UK and it is likely that we will see broader prescribing within the private sector over the next few years.
Patients in the UK are understandably becoming frustrated, particularly when they look to their European, North American and Australian counterparts who are able to access suitable cannabis based medical products with less restrictions in place at a fraction of the cost. The deadlock in the UK is forcing some families to travel abroad for treatment or to break the law and access cannabis through the black market.
The Conservative Drugs Committee have recently released a report (available here) which presents a detailed, comprehensive overview of the current routes of access to cannabis for medical purposes within the UK.
Barriers to prescribing
It is clear that the vast majority of specialist doctors in the UK are cautious and hesitant to prescribe cannabis-based medicines, particularly as unlicensed specials, where there is a greater emphasis and responsibility placed on individual prescribers. This is entirely understandable when we consider that most doctors lack knowledge of the endocannabinoid system having never been taught this topic in medical school or in further medical training.
Doctors and professional bodies have also raised concerns around efficacy and quality of products – which much be addressed to gain the trust and confidence of the wider medical community. Cannabis remains a highly political and contentious subject particularly when the focus amongst medical professionals remains on the historical evidence on the risks and harms of recreational cannabis use rather than rapidly emerging evidence base for cannabis-based medicines.
NICE have emphasised the need for more research on the evidence, yet have seemed resistant to accept alternative sources of data other than Randomised Controlled Trials. NICE, have equally also recognised the need to broaden its approach to real-world data when developing future NHS guidance. In February 2020, NICE released a statement detailing additional data sources – including electronic health records and other real-world data – that their independent committees may consider in the development of NHS guidance going forward.
It is worth noting that The European Medical Agency and the FDA granted 76 medicinal product licenses without RCT data between 1999 – 2014 on the basis of findings from other types of study, including randomised uncontrolled trials, historically- controlled trials and observational studies.
What does the future hold?
It is very clear that cannabis is here to stay and has role to play in modern medical practice. As scientists discover more about the cannabis plant and clinical applications we are likely to witness the gradual emergence of newer and more refined cannabis treatments with a greater understanding of the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. It seems highly likely that some of the lesser known cannabinoids and / or combinations of specific cannabinoids may be utilised for particular conditions and novel methods of drug delivery are in constant development. Synthetic cannabinoids offer promise and allow for greater consistency/ standardisation more in line with traditional pharmaceutical drug development. Full spectrum products / a botanical medicine approach allows for broader and more individualised type of treatments where patients play an important role in finding optimum strain and dose. The CBD sector which is utilised across the globe by the general public for a range of health conditions is due to see large scale reform involving stricter regulation with greater transparency to ensure safer, higher quality products.
One of the biggest trends we can expect to see within the medical cannabis world over the next few years, is more demand and funding for research. Research is required by official health bodies to unlock more knowledge surrounding its efficacy, long term safety profile and drug interactions. It is important that medical professionals work in collaboration with academia and regulators to improve safe access to cannabis based medical products where clinically appropriate and ensure the development of an evidence base to assess product safety and effectiveness.
Register for the online webinar
In collaboration with The Technion, the live webinar this Thursday 30th April, hosted by Dr Leon Barron and Professor Dedi Meiri, will discuss current medical cannabis research topics and what the future may hold for medical cannabis treatments.
While the webinar is free to register to, the webinar also has an additional feature. The Technion are currently funding COVID-19 research projects, involving over 30-labs throughout the world, to find a vaccination against Coronavirus. Donations are greatly welcome, in order to continue funding this marvellous effort.
To register your online attendance, click here.
At The Primary Care Cannabis Network, we are reaching out to and are working with other organisations and societies, so we can educate and advance scientific research. The aim is to expand the knowledge of cannabis-based medical treatments and focus on academic research, education, key-papers and open discussions.
We focus specifically on the needs of GPs and are creating a community that will enable GPs to confidently work together and with specialists to understand cannabis as a medical therapy and the various regulatory pathways that exist within the UK.