Nav: Home

Access to medical cannabis must be improved, argue top doctor and mother of Alfie Dingley

May 01, 2019

Despite a change in the law last year, access to medical cannabis in the UK has been much slower than patients and parents had hoped, warns an expert in The BMJ today.

David Nutt, professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, argues that still only a tiny number of children with severe juvenile epilepsy are being treated.

In a linked article, Hannah Deacon, mother of Alfie Dingley - whose high profile case was instrumental in changing the law - asks why was the law changed if access was not to be forthcoming?

Nutt argues that cannabis is the oldest medicine in the world, and was prescribed by doctors in the UK until 1971 when the Misuse of Drugs Act declared that medical use was illegal.

The government resisted any change until June 2018 when a high-profile campaign by Hannah Deacon, on behalf of her son Alfie, led to the first UK licence for medical cannabis and prompted a review of its status.

Just a few months later, on 1 November 2018, the law was changed and cannabis products were allowed to be prescribed by specialists, or a GP acting under the instructions of one.

Yet many children continue to have multiple seizures because neurologists will not prescribe, argues Nutt, and he points to likely reasons such as a lack of training, fear of prescribing off licence, refusal by some to pay, and difficulties obtaining supplies from foreign producers.

"We must hope the situation will improve," he writes, and to tackle the dearth of evidence he suggests using the cancer research model, where small expert groups conduct open effectiveness studies to collect outcome and side effect data, similar to what is already in place to study ketamine as a potential treatment for depression.

He also points to penicillin, another natural medicine welcomed by UK doctors to fulfil a major clinical need, even though there had been no trials of its effectiveness. "If today's medical profession could embrace cannabis in the same way as it did penicillin then the true value of this plant medicine should rapidly be realised," he concludes.

"Every child with intractable epilepsy should have the right to try cannabis medicines that could save them from a life of suffering," argues Hannah Deacon.

She explains how she had to fight for doctors to prescribe medical cannabis for her son Alfie to ease his seizures, but says many other children in similar situations have not been able to access these medicines, even though they are now legal.

Reasons given by doctors included lack of evidence, money, and support from NHS managers.

She now works with the campaign group End Our Pain, currently supporting 16 families in desperate need of medical cannabis prescriptions.

Cannabis medicines are no panacea, she admits, but says "It is heartbreaking that seemingly no NHS doctor is willing or able to prescribe medicines that could help these children who have been very sick, some for many years, after having tried many other drugs."

She acknowledges that the NHS is underfunded, but says the costs of long term care far exceed those of a product that may just give children and their families a life to live.

"We became campaigners because we had no choice," she writes. "We are our child's only advocates, and we must do all we can to be heard."
-end-


BMJ

Related Cannabis Articles:

Pregnant women with depression are more than 3 times more likely to use cannabis
Cannabis use is much more common among pregnant women with depression and pregnant women with depression are more than 3 times more likely to use cannabis than those without depression.
Cannabis compound acts as an antibiotic 
Public health agencies worldwide have identified antibiotic resistance of disease-causing bacteria as one of humanity's most critical challenges.
Cannabis use during pregnancy
The large health care system Kaiser Permanente Northern California provides universal screening for prenatal cannabis use in women during pregnancy by self-report and urine toxicology testing.
Questions and answers about cannabis use during pregnancy
A new study shows that women have many medical questions about the use of cannabis both before and during pregnancy, and during the postpartum period while breastfeeding.
Managing cannabis use in breastfeeding women
As more states legalize medicinal and recreational cannabis use and increasingly decriminalize cannabis, the risk to the growth and development of breastfeeding infants whose mothers use cannabis becomes a growing public health concern.
Cannabis edibles present novel health risks
With the recent legalization of cannabis edibles in Canada, physicians and the public must be aware of the novel risks of cannabis edibles, argue authors in a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Compliance with ID rules in recreational cannabis stores
A new study finds that recreational cannabis stores in Colorado and Washington state, both of which legalized adult recreational use in 2012, show high levels of compliance with rules preventing underage purchase of cannabis.
Study reveals increased cannabis use in individuals with depression
New findings published in Addiction reveal the prevalence of cannabis, or marijuana, use in the United States increased from 2005 to 2017 among persons with and without depression and was approximately twice as common among those with depression in 2017.
Cannabis reduces headache and migraine pain by nearly half
Inhaled cannabis reduces self-reported headache severity by 47.3% and migraine severity by 49.6%, according to a recent study by Washington State University researchers published in the Journal of Pain.
Cannabis found not to be a substitute for opioids
The research team looked at all research on the effects of cannabis use on illicit opioid use during methadone maintenance therapy, which is a common treatment for opioid use disorder, and found six studies involving more than 3,600 participants.
More Cannabis News and Cannabis Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity
More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that's popping up all over the country: convalescent plasma transfusion, a century-old procedure that some say may become one of our best weapons against this devastating, new disease.   If you have recovered from Covid-19 and want to donate plasma, national and local donation registries are gearing up to collect blood.  To sign up with the American Red Cross, a national organization that works in local communities, head here.  To find out more about the The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which we spoke about in our episode, including information on clinical trials or plasma donation projects in your community, go here.  And if you are in the greater New York City area, and want to donate convalescent plasma, head over to the New York Blood Center to sign up. Or, register with specific NYC hospitals here.   If you are sick with Covid-19, and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or are looking for a plasma donor match, check in with your local hospital, university, or blood center for more; you can also find more information on trials at The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. And lastly, Tatiana Prowell's tweet that tipped us off is here. This episode was reported by Molly Webster and produced by Pat Walters. Special thanks to Drs. Evan Bloch and Tim Byun, as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.