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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

NICE’s Draft Guidelines on Cannabis Prove That Its Methods Don’t Work and It Is Causing Harm to Patients

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The draft guidelines produced by the NICE committee are nothing short of ridiculous.  There is a complete absence of common sense and an absurd failure properly to consider all the available evidence.

But it’s actually much more serious than this.  It is now abundantly clear that this committee, its membership and its conclusions were only ever intended to delay, obfuscate and sabotage the reforms which were introduced in November last year because of a public outcry.

The selection of members of the committee is by any standards corrupt.  The most highly qualified people have been deliberately excluded.  Anyone publicly expressing support for the use of cannabis as medicine has been rejected whereas those selected have frequently expressed opposition.  The inclusion of the ‘reefer madness’ advocate Professor Finbar O’Callaghan is both reprehensible and inexcusable. If the man had any ethical standards or conscience he would recuse hismself. The committee is a confidence trick.

The medical establishment, the Home Office and all the various regulators, including the MHRA, the FSA and the Royal Colleges are all institutionally opposed to cannabis and they are doing everything they can to stop it reaching the people who can benefit from it.  Cannabis, the more intelligent approach to medicine it both requires and inspires, threatens too many vested interests and the comfortable, self-satisfied and self-serving model of healthcare that prevails in Britain.

But if any NICE apparatchik or fat cat pharma supremo thinks they can stop cannabis they are fooling themselves.  From right around the world the overwhelming weight of expert opinion and patient experience reveals that what is happening in Britain is merely delaying the inevitable. But in the meantime it is causing great suffering and unnecessary harm to patients.  It is a scandal of the highest order and the people responsible for it must be called to account.

CLEAR has responded to the consultation on the draft guidelines in great detail.  Without reproducing our line by line commentary, these are our three general observations.

1. The entire guideline is characterised by a failure to consider observational evidence and real-world experience.  Cannabis is the oldest medicine known to mankind and failure to give substantial weight to real-world experience of its safety and efficacy is nothing short of absurd. Given its illegality over the past 100 years, the wild scaremongering about its recreational use and therefore the lack of formal clinical evidence, this is simply setting it up to fail. It is irresponsible in the extreme to fail to consider the enormous benefit at very low cost and the very few adverse events associated with illicit cannabis.

2. There is little evidence of potential for harm for cannabis for any medical condition. Given the enormous numbers using cannabis in its most potent form as a recreational drug and/or self-medicating (estimated at 250 million regular users worldwide) there are far fewer adverse events or incidents of harm than for common over-the-counter medicines.

3. The weight given throughout the guideline to the potential for harm of cannabis is wildly disproportionate.  There is no evidence of any significant harm from cannabis when used as a medicine, especially when under the supervision of a medical professional.  At least 10,000 years of human experience shows that cannabis is essentially safe. Seeking to evaluate its safety in the same way as a new, experimental medicine, synthesised in a lab for which there is no real-world experience is a fundamentally flawed approach.  Unlike potentially dangerous or unsafe medicines, cannabis can and should be offered to patients on a ‘try it and see’ basis.  Instead of being over-cautious, clinicians should welcome this approach and can be certain that it will benefit patients whether or not in proves effective in individual cases.

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BBC Horizon to Ramp Up Discredited Kings College ‘Skunk Scaremongering’

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Dr Marta di Forti. Scientist or Skunk Scaremonger?

Tonight’s BBC Horizon is going to follow the long-established BBC policy of overstating and exaggerating the potential harms of cannabis.

From clips already released it is clear the programme is to promote as gospel truth the hysterical scaremongering and fanciful statistical projections coming from Dr Marta di Forti at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry. This so-called scientist and her colleagues base all their conclusions on profoundly unscientific methods, false assumptions, bizarre statistical trickery and the misuse of the tabloid term ‘skunk’ as if it actually means something.

This is the way the BBC has always operated – to support the false narrative of the establishment about cannabis, to demonise it, to minimise if not ridicule its medicinal benefits and to cherry pick evidence and biased opinion to support its case.

Anyone with any real knowledge of cannabis who has spent any time properly reseraching the evidence will know that Dr di Forti’s projections and claims are ridiculous.  This is a British phenomenom.  It occurs nowhere else in the world.  Every other nation’s media, scientific and medical community takes a balanced and realistic view and recognises that cannabis is largely benign and for 99% of people, 99% of the time is harmless.  Perhaps most instruictive is that virtually nowhere else in the world will you hear the word ‘skunk’ used by real scientists.  Originally the name of a specific strain of cannabis it is now merely a scary word used to frighten people and it has no specific or defined meaning.  Its use is, in fact, the very opposite of science.

But don’t take my word for it. In a devastating critique of di Forti’s latest 2019 study, read the words of leading scientists from Australia and the Netherlands as they dismantle di Forti’s wild overclaiming and statistical trickery: High-potency cannabis and incident psychosis: correcting the causal assumption

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 28, 2019 at 10:29 am

New NHS ‘Cannabis Clinic’ Announced as Kings College, Institute of Psychiatry Joins the ‘Green Rush’.

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Dr Marta di Forti: “Cannabis-induced psychosis is a crisis which cannot be ignored”.

Mail on Sunday, 30th June 2019. NHS is forced to open Britain’s first clinic for cannabis psychosis to treat addicts of the mind-altering drug

Daily Telegraph, 30th June 2019. NHS opens first ever cannabis clinic as mind-altering ‘skunk’ fuels psychosis among users

Daily Star, 30th June 2019. First NHS clinic for weed addicts launched to treat cannabis-induced psychosis sufferers

The Times, 1st July 2019. NHS opens its first clinic to treat cannabis psychosis

Dr Di Forti, Professor Murray and their colleagues at the King’s College Institute of Psychiatry live in a bubble that is not replicated anywhere else in the world. The fantastic and frightening statistics that they publish are achieved through the use of complex, esoteric algorithms that generate theoretical projections which are regularly challenged by every other research team across the world working on the same subject.

Nevertheless, in the UK their theories are accepted as fact. Vigorously promoted by the King’s College press office, dutifully sensationalised by the Daily Mail and rarely challenged by other mainstream media, they are part of the anti-cannabis mythology which has a stronger foothold in the UK than any other country in the world.

Despite their best efforts, repeating the same or similar studies over many years, there is no evidence that cannabis causes psychosis, merely observational studies that show some people who are diagnosed with psychosis have used cannabis. Similar studies also show an association with drinking milk, energy drinks, using a skateboard, playing computer games or living in areas with heavy traffic pollution.

Research conducted at the Universities of Bristol and Cardiff, validated by further work at University of York, shows that the risk of a diagnosis of psychosis correlating with cannabis consumption is about 1:20000. See: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170420132334.htm By comparison the risk of being struck by lightning in a lifetime is 1:3000. See: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/06/0623_040623_lightningfacts.html. This puts the risk into proper perspective and explains why nowhere else in the world, including where far more potent varieties of cannabis are legally available, is this a problem of any significance.

A few unfortunate souls will need treatment for psychosis where cannabis, probably with other substances, has been a component factor in their illness but the risk of this is infinitesimally small and compared to the panoply of other substances, activities and experiences we indulge in, completely irrelevant to 99% of people.

This clinic is another example of the skilled PR operation which enables Kings College to continue repeating this research year after year without ever discovering anything new or useful. It’s also clear that they want their share of the ‘green rush’ of huge investment funding going into cannabis as legalisation continues its unstoppable and very welcome roll-out across the world.

Legally regulated cannabis will result in a safer, happier, wealthier world for everyone and far better protect those very few people who are vulnerable rather than leaving the market under the control of gangsters.

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 1, 2019 at 11:28 am

Letter to the Irish Independent, 22nd June 2019. ‘Let’s look at the evidence when it comes to cannabis’

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Peter Reynolds of CLEAR confronts the reefer madness of Irish psychiatrist, Professor Patricia Casey.

See her original column: ‘Dangers of sleepwalking into legalisation of cannabis use’

In response to Patricia Casey (Dangers of sleepwalking into legalisation of cannabis use’, 15th June 2019), how much longer must we be berated by the sort of arguments that Professor Casey puts forward? At best her column is disingenuous and misleading.

The ‘Cannabis Risk Alliance’ was directly contradicted by another group, similarly qualified, just a few days later and by the overwhelming weight of medical and scientific opinion around the world.

Research shows the risk of mental illness with cannabis is one in 20,000. By comparison the risk of being struck by lightning is one in 3000.

Medical cannabis is not “use of cannabis of the CBD variety”. Bedrocan, the leading EU medical cannabis supplier has three products with THC content of 22%, 13.5% and 14%. It’s clear Professor Casey simply doesn’t understand the subject.

Cannabis has been used as medicine for more than 5,000 years and doctors around the world now prescribe it with enormous benefit to patients. Some 99% of Irish doctors have not been educated in the endocannabinoid system, through which cannabis works. In other countries, medical cannabis has special regulations. Trying to regulate a 500 molecule medicine in the same way as single molecule pharmaceutical product is impossible.

Professor Casey is wrong about the Netherlands. By separating the cannabis market from hard drugs, the rate of heroin addiction is one-sixth that of Ireland. So talk about a ‘slippery slope’ and a “softening up process” is simply mischievous.

I agree that government must be careful of vested interest groups but these include doctors funded by pharmaceutical companies. Psychiatrists only see people with a problem and are blind to the benefits that 99% of people experience.

Can cannabis be misused and cause harm? Yes. Is the risk as great as with alcohol or tobacco? No. Is it any more than with coffee, bacon or chocolate? Not really. It really is time we acted in accordance with the evidence and not on scaremongering which verges on hysteria.

Peter Reynolds

 

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 22, 2019 at 4:10 pm

Doctors Are Frightened Of Cannabis. It Challenges Conventional Medicine And Threatens Their Status.

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Professor Andrew Goddard and Professor Finbar O’Callaghan at the Health and Social Care Committee, 26th March 2019

The British medical establishment is behaving like a spoilt child that doesn’t understand the rules of a new game.

The irony is that it’s actually a very old game that went out of fashion just a century ago despite thousands of years of practice. The wisdom accumulated across those many years has been dismissed by simplistic, reductionist, allopathic medicine and its return is being driven by patients – real benefit that real patients experience in real life, surely the most important criterion of all.

The doctors responsible for drafting the medicinal cannabis guidelines from the Royal College of Physicians and the British Paediatric Neurology Association have failed patients.  Either through error or design they have overlooked the evidence of safety and efficacy that is widely available.  They say there is ‘no evidence’ when what they mean is there is no evidence that suits them.  For some reason they regard medical practice in Canada, the USA, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain or Israel as not applicable to the UK.  Their guidelines are not based on evidence but on the disregarding of evidence and they are merely the opinion of doctors who have no experience of cannabis at all.

These doctors who expect their ill-informed opinions to be treated as scientific fact are directly opposing the doctrine of ‘do no harm’.  They stand by while scores of young children suffer life threatening seizures, while hundreds of thousands in chronic pain are offered only highly toxic, addictive and dangerous opioids.

Their arrogance, stubborness and self-serving preference for lengthy clinical trials from which they earn fat fees is both damaging quality of life and putting health at risk for millions of us.

Since Finbar O’Callaghan and Andrew Goddard gave evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee, over three months ago, neither of them, nor any of their colleagues in their ivory towers, have done anything effective to improve access to cannabis as medicine.  They have decided that their opinion counts above everything else.  They have no interest in what patients have learned from experience, sometimes over many years. They choose to ignore the expertise of thousands of doctors from other countries.  They will consider the benefits of cannabis only on their terms.  They continue to wildly exaggerate the possible harms and side effects and their position is fixed, stubborn and intransigent.

It was notable in the two professors’ evidence that they preferred only to talk about cannabidiol, where they could refer to the evidence of clinical trials. They didn’t want to discuss full spectrum cannabis at all.  Why is it that physicians are so risk averse when surgeons are lauded and idolised for the most perilous use of the knife? They will slice into flesh only millimetres away from vital organs, remove sections of the brain which could kill or paralyse with the slightest error. Yet unbelievably, O’Callaghan actually does recommend slicing into a child’s brain rather than to administer a tiny dose of a very low potency version of a drug which 250,000,0000 people worldwide consume regularly with very few problems.

It’s all about ignorance and fear. O’Callaghan, Gardner and 99% of British doctors have received no education at all in the endocannabinoid system through which cannabis exerts its therapeutic effects and this challenges their status. In our culture, doctors have been treated as infallible, almost as Gods, never to be questioned, only to be obeyed. So a medicine that works, that is safer than virtually all the pills you can buy over-the-counter and has powerful, benefical effects for very wide range of conditions is a real threat to doctors’ status. It shakes their world and so they are eager to disparage it, exaggerate its risks, diminish its efficacy.

This is the real issue with cannabis. It gives medicine back to the people, literally for those who grow their own, and with it a great deal of the power and prestige that the medical profession has held over us.

Of course more and more doctors are opening their minds and learning.  It’s the establishment that’s the problem, as it so often is in British life.  It’s those at the top of the Royal Colleges, the professional institutions and the NHS bureaucrats at the intersection between money and medicine. These are the people that stand in the way of the most inexpensive, multi-purpose, safe, effective, easily tolerated medicine that we have.

 

Ignorant Doctors Bring Shame On Their Profession With Foolish Words on Cannabis

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What is it in these British Isles that has resulted in a medical establishment that uses prejudice, scaremongering and specious argument to object to the medical use of cannabis?

The astonishing ignorance that pervades the medical profession on this subject is demonstrated once again by a ridiculous letter in today’s Irish Times.  In a display of hubris, arrogance and plain stupidity, these people who assume they are due our respect, have conflated the issues of medical and recreational use in the most  destructive and confusing way.  These doctors are fundamentally failing in their duty to ‘do no harm’ both in undermining progress towards use of cannabis as medicine and in not providing this medicine to their patients immediately.

The sheer stupidity of the argument advanced by these doctors is breathtaking. They object to progress towards medical availablility by promoting the old chestnut of cannabis in recreational use causing psychosis. Their point is entirely irrelevant, it has nothing to do with medical use. It is no different from denying morphine to patients to control the most severe pain, following an operation, severe injury or at end-of-life, because some people use heroin as a recreational drug. It is a shameful, illogical, irrational and deeply cruel argument that shoud rest heavily on these doctors’ consciences.

And the psychosis argument is nothing but scaremongering anyway.  The evidence clearly shows that the risk of cannabis use correlating with a diagnosis of psychosis is one in 20,000.  As the National Geographic reports, the risk of being struck by lightning in one’s lifetime is merely one in 3,000.

The letter then descends into further evidence-free scaremongering, again totally irrelevant to the use of cannabis as medicine. The risks of cannabis are vastly and dishonestly exaggerated by doctors who clearly have no real idea what they are putting their names to.

It’s a disgrace that this letter has been composed and submitted to the Irish Times and the doctors’ new campaign group, the Cannabis Risk Alliance, is a fraud.

Shame on these quacks who have brought their profession into disrepute and stand in the way of providing proper medical care to their patients.  This must be the final nail in the coffin of unquestioning respect and belief in doctors.  They have shown beyond doubt that they do not deserve to be held in such high regard.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 21, 2019 at 1:02 pm

The Desperate Rearguard Action the British Medical Establishment is Fighting Against Cannabis

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Professor Finbar O’Callaghan

This Arrogant Man Must Face Tough Questions About his Stance on

Cannabis, his Financial Interests and his Breathtaking Hypocrisy.

Professor Finbar O’Callaghan introduced himself at the recent oral evidence session of the Health and Social Care Committee in these terms:

“My name is Professor Finbar O’Callaghan and I am here as president of the British Paediatric Neurology Association which is the association which represents all paediatric neurologists in the UK. I’m also a consultant paediatric neurologist at Great Ormond Street, an epileptologist and professor of paediatric neuroscience at UCL. I have a particular interest in epidemiology and clinical trials and in particular running clinical trials in childhood epilepsy.”

It’s hardly surprising then that in such a pre-eminent position, his opinion on the use of medical cannabis in paediatric epilepsy is regarded as if it had the force of law amongst doctors.  But I point you to his final sentence and his declared adherence to the doctrine and close involvement in the multi-million pound industry of clinical trials.

Note that Professor O’Callaghan is now becoming the medical establishment’s poster boy in opposing the prescription of cannabis as medicine.  He is now disparaging its use for fibromyalgia in adults, something he is no more qualified about than a junior medical student.

Clinical trials cost tens of millions of pounds (at least) and their primary purpose, at which they do not always succeed, is to ensure the safety of experimental medicines, usually single molecule drugs, synthesised in a laboratory, which may be highly toxic.  All such trials are financed by the pharmaceutical industry with the intention of gaining a licence (known as a marketing authorisation) to enable them to sell their medicines at what are invariably huge prices. The businesses and people involved in the clinical trials process earn vast amounts of money and have a vested interest in ensuring that the regulation of all medicines follows this route.

All clinical trials are conducted under the auspices of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), a government agency which is directed, managed and staffed almost exclusively by people who used to work in the pharmaceutical industry. They all continue to benefit financially from the self-reinforcing, self-regulating and self-serving medical establishment which is built on the pharmaceutical industry and its invention of clinical trials.

Clinical trials are the medical establishment’s ‘kool aid’.  They are a panacea for doctors’ ethical and clinical decision making.  If anything goes wrong, even the most horrendous, catastrophic results, if a doctor has prescribed a medicine which has been through the clinical trials procedure, they can wash their hands, disavow any responsibility and move on to their next ‘doctoring-by-numbers’ appointment.  Increasingly, doctors make very few real decisions. Their actions are all pre-determined by protocols and drugs created and approved by the medical establishment.

So cannabis really doesn’t fit into this system and for Professor O’Callaghan unless any medicine goes through a clinical trial in the specialty which he behaves as if he owns – childhood eplipesy, it will never be good enough to get his endorsement and will therefore be shut out of normal practice and very difficult if not impossible for patients to access.  It is, in fact, a ‘stitch-up’.  A term the Professor will understand as he advocates slicing into a child’s brain in a surgical procedure before trying whole plant cannabis as a medicine.

Note that cannabis is not an experimental medicine, nor a single molecule drug, synthesised in a laboratory, nor is it highly toxic.  It consists of around 500 molecules, is synthesised in a plant and has been in widespread use, we know beyond doubt, for at least 10,000 years.  Currently it is in regular use by 250,000,000 people worldwide as a recreational substance.  In modern times it has been in use as a medicine in Israel since the early 1990s, California since 1996, in Canada and the Netherlands since 2001.  There is no evidence of any significant problems or side effects at a population level, none whatsoever where it is used as a medicine under medical supervision. The only evidence of any significant negative effects is where it is used in extremely potent form as a recreational substance by children and even then the numbers involved are tiny.

This is why in every jurisdiction throughout the world where cannabis for medical use is legally permitted, it is through a special system outside pharmaceutical medicines regulation. Every other government that has recognised the enormous benefit that it offers has come to the same conclusion: cannabis is a special case. It is much, much safer than pharmaceutical products. We need an ‘Office of Medicinal Cannabis’ as there is in the Netherlands, or ‘Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations’ as administered by Health Canada. Colorado has its ‘Medical Marijuana Registry Program’ and other US states have similar arrangements. Israel’s Ministry of Health has its ‘Medical Cannabis Unit’. In Australia, its equivalent of the MHRA, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, has established its own set of medical cannabis regulations.

None of this fits into Professor O’Callaghan’s model.  His career and his income is founded on clinical trials and specifically in childhood epilepsy, regardless of the facts of actual experience in thousands of patients, he is going to do everything he can to prevent its use except on his terms.  He has a glaring and outrageous conflict of interest and the failure of any other doctor to point this out simply demonstrates how powerful is the medical establishment and its mafia-like control of our healthcare system.

In his written submission to the Health and Social Care Committee, O’Callaghan had the audacity to attack Professor Mike Barnes, based on a scurrilous article in the tabloid Mail on Sunday, for his “significant financial interests in the cannabis industry”.  He also attacks everyone else who has any knowledge or experience in the area, denigrating them as “experts” (in inverted commas).  O’Callaghan’s hypocrisy is breathtaking and it is time the sycophantic, uncritical reporting of his opinions was highlighted. I have no doubt that he is an “expert” but he is not the only one and there are paediatric neurologists in Canada, the Netherlands and elsewhere whose knowledge and experience of prescribing cannabis vastly exceeds his own.  He needs taking down a peg or two in the interests of children – and now adults – whose care he is interfering with.

Cannabis as medicine has never gone away, despite the best efforts of vested interests and the medical establishment to kill it off. After almost a century of being demonised by governments, the media and every quack on a mission, whether qualified or not, it is here to stay. This doctrine of pharmaceutical drugs, clinical trials and ruthless suppression of empirical knowledge has only been around for that same 100 years.  Modern, reductionist medicine has great deal to offer but so does the wisdom of ages and the plants that have long helped us cure, heal and maintain our health.  They can co-exist and we must put aside arrogance and self-interest in order best to serve the people.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

April 7, 2019 at 5:11 pm