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:

Vaping cannabis may expose users to carcinogenic compounds
New research shows that the agents commonly mixed with cannabis oil for vaping can also produce cancer-causing compounds when heated.
Recreational cannabis, used often, increases risk of gum disease
Recreational use of cannabis -- including marijuana, hashish, and hash oil -- increases the risk of gum disease, says a study by Columbia University dental researchers.
Cannabis reverses aging processes in the brain
Memory performance decreases with increasing age. Cannabis can reverse these ageing processes in the brain.
Did illicit cannabis use increase more in states with medical marijuana laws?
A study using data from three US national surveys indicates that illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders increased at a greater rate in states that passed medical marijuana laws than in other states, according to a new article published online by JAMA Psychiatry.
Risk of psychosis from cannabis use lower than originally thought, say scientists
Scientists at the University of York have shown that the risk of developing psychosis, such as hallucinations, from cannabis use is small compared to the number of total users.
Researchers identify genes that give cannabis its flavor
UBC scientists have scanned the genome of cannabis plants to find the genes responsible for giving various strains their lemony, skunky or earthy flavors, an important step for the budding legal cannabis industry.
Cannabis use in people with epilepsy revealed: Australian survey
The first Australian nationwide survey on the experiences and opinions of medicinal cannabis use in people with epilepsy has revealed that 14 per cent of people with epilepsy have used cannabis products as a way to manage seizures.
The Lancet Psychiatry: Experts ask: Can cannabis be made safer?
As cannabis laws become liberalised in many countries, experts writing in The Lancet Psychiatry argue that there is an urgent need to explore how cannabis use can be made safer.
Given the choice, patients will reach for cannabis over prescribed opioids
Chronic pain sufferers and those taking mental health meds would rather turn to cannabis instead of their prescribed opioid medication, according to new research by the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria.
Brainy teens may be less likely to smoke, but more likely to drink and use cannabis
Brainy teens may be less likely to smoke, but more likely to drink alcohol and use cannabis, than their less academically gifted peers, suggests research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Related Cannabis Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...