Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Don’t Believe a Word the FSA Says About CBD.

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It’s reported in The Times and the Daily Mail today that many CBD products must be withdrawn from sale because of ‘safety concerns’. This follows a week of slavish repetition in the media of the FSA’s line that its publication of a list of 3,500 products that ‘might’ be authorised in the future is a “milestone” for the industry.

To be more accurate, it’s the line it’s devised in conjunction with the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), the most recently formed trade association in the sector which, although repesenting only about 20 of the hundreds of CBD companies, now has privileged access and preferential treatment with the FSA. There is no doubt that the relationship between the two is improper and possibly corrupt. Dishonesty, deceit and underhand behaviour have been in play for at least the past year in order to give ACI and its members a commercial advantage and help the FSA create, on the basis of zero credible evidence, a massively expensive system that benefits no one else except its bureaucracy, least of all consumers.

This is nothing to do with safety. There are no reports from anywhere in the world at any time of anyone coming to any harm from CBD products.

The safety scare is entirely invented by the FSA in order to build its massive new, wholly unnecessary bureaucracy. They have been supported and encouraged by the ACI, most of its members dealing primarily in nasty, ineffective isolate products, not the ‘whole plant’ products which millions of people have found great benefit from.

CBD isolate needs to be taken at doses at least 10 times greater than whole plant products, doesn’t work anywhere near as well and because of the huge doses often causes stomach upsets.

This is a classic case of big business using financial muscle and influence to get the regulator to apply misguided, massively expensive over-regulation which squeezes out the smaller suppliers and bloats the bureaucracy.

It’s corrupt and the people who are harmed by it are consumers.

What was a fantastic British success story is being destroyed by vested interests squashing the small businesses that created the market.

The CBD market does need better regulation and the two longstanding trade associations, the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) and CannaPro, had implemented very effective self-regulation of their members. What that needed to work was for the two regulators concerned, the FSA and the MHRA, to crack down on the unregulated end of the market but they both failed dismally to fulfil their responsibilities. The MHRA simply washed its hands of its duty to enforce the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, which meant widespread, unlawful claims of medical benefit from cowboy traders. The FSA spurned all the work that CTA and CannaPro had done with it over the previous five years and formed its unlawful relationship with the multimillionaire backers of ACI.

There are just two issues which need addressing in regulating CBD products: what the products contain and how they are marketed. This is the effective and inexpensive approach that CTA and CannaPro were taking and is explained in detail in this article published a year ago: The FSA’s Intervention in the CBD Market is a Farce. Here’s the Clear and Simple Solution.

The effect of the FSA’s action has already been to destroy many small businesses and hundreds of jobs. What lies ahead is a two-tier market: the FSA/ACI ‘authorised products’ which will be ineffective, isolate-based and available in high street chains; and ‘real’ whole plant CBD products, which are what work and what consumers want, operating in a black market, either online or through independent retailers.

Don’t buy CBD isolate products. You will be wasting your money.

Still ‘Insufficient Evidence’ for the NHS to Fund Medicinal Cannabis – or What’s it Really About?

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The laboratory evidence for medicinal cannabis is through the roof in proof of efficacy and safety. The observational clinical evidence is also conclusive.

The evidence that is ‘lacking’ is that which fits in with the medical establishment’s well-established formula for making senior clinicians rich. The same doctors that write the guidelines are the ones who earn the very fat fees for running clinical trials and decide which evidence is valid and which isn’t. When the Royal Colleges and the professional medical bodies have worked out a way to get cannabis under their control, suddenly all the evidence will be OK. Then the committees and advisory boards that these same doctors sit on will turn on the NHS funding tap.

Until then, doctors are frightened of cannabis. A medicine that works, that is safer than virtually all the pills you can buy over-the-counter and has powerful, beneficial effects for a very wide range of conditions is a real threat to vested interests and doctors’ status. It shakes their world and so they are eager to disparage it, exaggerate its risks and diminish its efficacy.

Only when the medical establishment understands how its pre-eminence is going to be maintained, knows where fees and prestige are coming from, then cannabis will be ‘discovered’ by the NHS and all the benefits to patients and in reduced costs will follow.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 27, 2022 at 10:21 am

Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into Drugs. Evidence Doesn’t Work with Politicians, Will Common Sense?

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I am unable to share my detailed response to the inquiry until it has formally accepted and published it. However, this introduction explains the basis of my submission.

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I am the president of CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform, the longest established and largest membership-based cannabis policy group in the UK, founded in 1999 with more than 600,000 followers. We represent people who support cannabis law reform, not all but most are also cannabis consumers. We are committed to a responsible, science and evidence-based approach.

I have participated in the cannabis law reform campaign for over 40 years. For over 30 years I have worked professionally in healthcare and medicine and for the past 10 years in the legal cannabis and cannabinoid industry.

The committee’s first inquiry into drugs was in 1983. I submitted evidence then at the tender age of 26 and to every inquiry since up to this year’s at the age of 64.

What stands out in all these inquiries is the overwhelming weight of evidence and opinion in favour of radical reform.  Yet despite this, apart from the legalisation of access to prescribed medicinal cannabis in 2018, no progress has been made.  On the contrary, politicians continue to prefer to posture as ‘tough on drugs’ rather than follow evidence or public opinion.

There is no doubt of the failure of current policy, yet both major parties continue to stick rigidly to prohibition. This despite the highest ever level of drug deaths, the de facto decriminalisation of cannabis by police and widespread contempt for our drug laws demonstrated by colossal consumption, particularly of cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy (MDMA) by people of all ages and social backgrounds.

There is also no doubt of the cost of this failed policy, estimated to be in the region of £20 billion per annum, and that it drives crime, violence, gangsterism and the breakdown of cohesion in society.  One of the common misconceptions, which ministers dishonestly promote, is that it is drugs that drive these problems when in fact it is almost always policy that is the cause. Present policy directly supports and encourages organised crime.

What will it take for politicians to grasp this nettle?

Clearly, erudite submissions of evidence and logical argument do not work, however well qualified or experienced the source. Despite many politicians’ admissions of drug use, once in office they choose to continue with policies that, had they been caught with illegal drugs, would probably disqualify them from the jobs they now hold. Frequently, when they leave office they suddenly reverse their position and support reform. This brazen hypocrisy causes great damage to our society and contributes to widespread contempt for our political system.

So, in this submission, I address the issues concerned with common sense. For instance, specifically on cannabis, it is easily possible to find scientific evidence either maximising its dangers or minimising them. In the UK, mainly due to research at the Institute of Psychiatry, we have a particularly extreme point of view on its likelihood to cause mental illness but this is unique in the world. Most other countries take a far more balanced approach and the media is not as hysterical about these potential harms.  It is possible to swap studies ad infinitum and nothing is achieved by this. Instead, I propose the common sense that since the 1960s the number of cannabis consumers has risen from about zero to about 3 million, yet there is no correlation at all with the rate of diagnosed mental illness which is steady or declining.

The fantastic statistical projections from the Institute of Psychiatry, using the most esoteric mathematical formulae, drive fear about cannabis but they simply do not match the real word experience of the millions of people who regularly consume the drug.  It is this sort of mismatch that paralyses our ability to reach a consensus. This is why I believe that far more weight needs to be given to common sense.

Drug use is a normal part of life for most people. The distinction between drugs which are legally permitted, alcohol and tobacco, and drugs which are banned is, in itself, extremely harmful. Alcohol and tobacco are two of the most harmful drugs, much more harmful than many drugs that are banned. It is common sense that the law should guide people accurately, not mislead them as at present.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 24, 2022 at 1:55 pm

The Times Picks up the Reefer Madness Baton from the Daily Mail

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Stigmatising cannabis consumers and patients with one-sided and biased reporting is irresponsible misinformation, not journalism

It’s that time of year, King’s College Institute of Psychiatry has started its fundraising round so it’s time for the annual cannabis and psychosis scare story.

Over the past 10 years, in January or February each year, a press release goes out with its lead researchers, Professor Sir Robin Murray and Dr Marta di Forti, pushing another set of extremely scary statistics about how cannabis is driving consumers insane.

This year, two things are different, Firstly, there’s no new study, just repetition of previous claims.  Secondly, instead of being led by the Daily Mail, it’s The Times that has taken up the role of terrifying parents and this year there’s also a new story about over-55s who are ‘addicted’ to cannabis.

The Times’ reputation as the newspaper of record and the supreme example of English-language journalism has been faltering for some time. The decline started, inevitably, when Rupert Murdoch bought the newspaper in 1981.  It’s now tabloid-sized and, surprisingly often, tabloid in its style and disdain for the truth. In the main it is still a good source of news reporting and has an honourable record in covering the increasing acceptance of and value in the medical use of cannabis.

However, starting in September 2021 with a major feature in the Sunday magazine by Megan Agnew,‘Cannabis psychosis: how super-powered skunk blew our minds’, it has become an uncritical promoter and advocate for everything that comes out of King’s College about cannabis.

Ms Agnew interviewed me at length several months before her piece was published and I dare say she spoke to other people on the reform side of the debate as well.  Certainly not one word of what I said made it into print.  It might as well be a paid-for advertorial for Marta di Forti and Robin Murray’s work.

I’ve met Robin Murray several times. In fact, I once sat next to him for two days in a conference held in the House of Lords. In person he’s nowhere near the anti-cannabis zealot he’s portrayed as in the press and there are other people in his team who I have worked with on research projects who I think, although they wouldn’t say it, are actually on my side!  Nevertheless, the message about their research that is portrayed in the media is clearly deliberate and it is wildly misleading.

This is best demonstrated by going to the Lancet website, where all the Murray/di Forti papers are published and reading the other scientists who debunk both the results and the methodology that Murray/di Forti use.  Of course, this never gets mentioned in the press. The Times has completely excluded it from all its coverage.  Go to https://www.thelancet.com/ and search for ‘High-potency cannabis and incident psychosis: correcting the causal assumption’. You’ll see a whole new perspective on King’s College and its scientists.

This obsession with demonising cannabis is centred on the UK, precisely because of the endlessly repetitive work carried out at King’s College and the appetite that British press has for sensationalising it.  Australia also suffers from it to some degree but nowhere else in the world experiences the same systematic, ludicrous scaremongering.  That’s not to say that the potential dangers of cannabis as a psychoactive substance are ignored, they’re simply given proportionate recognition.  Clearly anything that affects the mind can, potentially, cause harm and needs consideration, just as we do with alcohol, coffee, energy drinks and many medicines. Sadly there will always be casualties but provided we do all we can to minimise them, they do not justify prohibition.  The evidence is clear that always causes more harm than good and it is self-evident that harm is better controlled and casualties more effectively prevented in a legal environment, not in a market run by gangsters and organised crime.

 

Ireland’s Medical Cannabis Access Programme – One Mistake After Another

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Lorraine Nolan, Chief Executive, HPRA

Short of an outright ban, Ireland has the most restrictive medicinal cannabis programme anywhere in the world and it’s still not operational more than four years after it was announced.

What’s even worse, as demonstrated by the letter nine leading neurologists have sent to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (Irish Times, 9th August 2021), the four products that the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) have selected are unsuitable for the conditions they are supposed to treat.

The story of how this has unfolded is a lesson in how not to regulate medicinal cannabis, or, indeed, any medicine. The programme is the result of public demand based on increasing recognition of the value and safety of cannabis when used responsibly under medical supervision. But it has been sabotaged by an Irish medical establishment that is hostile to cannabis and officials who have refused to take expert advice, preferring the opinions of clinicians who know nothing about it.

The problems started right at the beginning with a report compiled by the HPRA early in 2017 described as from an ‘expert working group’, yet not one person in the group was an expert in cannabis. It’s not clear that any of them had any knowledge at all about the use of cannabis as medicine when they were appointed. 

Unsurprisingly the report is full of errors and misunderstanding.  It claims there is “an absence of scientific data” on the efficacy of cannabis and not enough information on safety. This is palpable nonsense. History records cannabis being used as medicine for more than 5,000 years and ironically, it was an Irishman, William Brookes Shaughnessy, who published the first scientific paper on it in a medical journal in 1843. Since then it has been one of the most studied medicines on the planet.  It has over 26,000 references on Pubmed, the foremost source for medical literature whereas paracetamol has around 12,000. California has had a medicinal cannabis programme since 1989, the Netherlands since 2001 and its use is now widespread throughout the world. Millions of people are using medicinal cannabis safely and effectively. There is a vast amount of information and evidence available.

The most glaring error in the report is the omission of pain as a condition for which cannabis should be available. Pain is the condition for which cannabis is most often used and is most effective. In 2020 the global medicinal cannabis market was valued at around $9 billion, this is expected to reach $47 billion by 2027 and over 60% of this is for treating pain. Yet the HPRA’s so-called ‘experts’ thought it best to leave it out.

The HPRA started work on MCAP in March 2017. Officials claim to have sought “solutions to the supply of products from Denmark, UK, Canada and further afield”, which has included at least some officials going on international trips. It has taken four years to select four products, one of which is for epilepsy in adults and the other three are, as anyone with any expertise will confirm, best suited to treating pain!

Responsibility for this situation lies squarely with the HPRA.  It is matched by its corresponding failure to facilitate a medicinal cannabis industry in Ireland. At least a dozen serious proposals have been presented offering multimillion euro investments in Ireland, promising the creation of hundreds of new jobs.  Professor David Finn at NUI Galway is one of the world’s leading researchers into cannabinoid medicines and even his participation has failed to galvanise the HPRA into action.

Medicinal cannabis is the fastest growing business sector in the world. It is coming to Ireland, irrespective of the negative and luddite attitudes that prevail amongst the establishment. What is clear is that public health, the Irish people and the Irish economy are missing out in a big way and many of the opportunities have now been lost for good.

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 20, 2021 at 5:46 pm

A Small Victory Against Misleading Reporting on Cannabis in the British Press

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The peculiar relationship between drugs policy and evidence in Britain is caused largely by inaccurate, misleading and sensationalist reporting in the press. Our politicians’ inability to deal with this subject, even to engage in serious debate about it, is all about their fear of being dubbed ‘soft on drugs’ by the newspapers.

At last, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has upheld one of my many complaints about inaccurate reporting. This was a particularly egregious example of distortion and twisting of facts to suit a newspaper’s anti-cannabis agenda.

In January 2021, the Daily Telegraph published an article headlined “’Super skunk’ cannabis led to surge in mental health crisis”. This old trope, that cannabis causes mental illness, is now confined almost exclusively to our corner of North-West Europe. The Irish also suffer under this myth and to a lesser extent, so do Australia and New Zealand but everywhere else in the world a far more balanced and realistic view is taken.

There is no evidence to support it as a direct causal effect, only that it may, in some instances, be one of a number of component factors. Science shows that cigarette smoking and traffic pollution may be far more potent factors, not to say general adolescent angst and many other issues of modern life.

Nevertheless, in Britain, the press and therefore our politicians are obsessed with the idea and regard it as fact. It is this wicked prejudice that for decades has held back access to cannabis as medicine and still does so today. Our most senior clinicians have shown themselves incapable of separating fact from fiction and in a wider context, this myth is probably still the most important factor in holding back general drugs policy reform.  Because of politicians’ weakness in the face of newspaper sensationalism, they have enabled a massive £6 billion market to develop under the control of organised crime which now causes enormous harm throughout society.

My complaint read as follows:

“This article asserts that “cannabis has contributed to a record 100,000 people admitted for NHS treatment for drug-related mental health problems”

In fact, in deliberately misleading and sensationalist fashion, figures for primary diagnosis and secondary diagnosis have been combined. Total figure for primary diagnosis in relation to all drugs is 7,027, secondary diagnosis accounts for the other 93,000+ and means that for 90% of these admissions, the primary reason may have been nothing to do with drugs.

The 100,000 figure is clearly associated with cannabis yet the actual figures for cannabis show a decline from 1135 in 2018/19 to 1087 in 2019/20.

It is crystal clear that this presentation of the data is deliberately designed to mislead and sensationalise.”

What has always surprised me in running many of these complaints is the vehemence with which the newspapers have tried to defend what are nothing more than lies.  The Daily Telegraph did exactly the same this time, trying to adduce a large volume of irrelevant information that had nothing to do with its inaccurate journalism but was just about pushing its anti-cannabis agenda. As I wrote to IPSO at one stage:

“The Telegraph is entitled to publish as much one-sided, cherry picked evidence as it wishes except that if it does not do so accurately or distorts it to the point that it is misleading, it is in breach of clause 1 of the Editors’ Code.

I have no doubt that the newspaper will continue its current policy until the flood of money into the cannabis sector reaches such a level that it will be acting against its own self-interest.  That day is now very close and then the Telegraph will face the challenge of explaining to its readers why it has misled and deceived them for so long.”

So, IPSO has upheld my complaint and its full decision can be seen here. On the face of it, the result will just be another small correction that few people will read. But I hope that the time and money it has cost the Telegraph to deal with this might have some impact in future.

I’ve just heard that the Telegraph has appealed against IPSO’s decision which demonstrates just how keen it is to continue misreporting about cannabis!

 

 

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 26, 2021 at 5:46 pm

The FSA’s Intervention in the CBD Market is a Farce. Here’s the Clear and Simple Solution.

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I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry about the mess the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has got itself into in the cannabidiol (CBD) market.  After imposing costs of millions of pounds on business for no good reason, its deadlines have been missed, it’s got very few products on its ‘approved’ list and the whole situation is chaos.  It’s changed the staff involved (again) and there is no sign it is going to achieve anything except fritter away more taxpayers’ money and impose more unnecessary costs on more businesses.

It was always going to be a disaster because deeming CBD products ‘novel foods’ was false from the beginning. It was the European Commission (EC) that first imposed this nonsensical ruling, refusing to consider the comprehensive evidence submitted by the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) that extracts of CBD (and other cannabinoids) have been widely used in foods since as long ago as the 12th Century. Then, in anticipation of Brexit, the FSA, with no good reason, chose to adopt the EC’s novel foods policy and so this sad and futile story began.

The CBD market does need better regulation but ‘novel foods’ doesn’t address any of the issues of concern at all. It is a completely misguided policy.

There is no evidence of anyone, anywhere in the world, ever coming to any harm from consuming CBD as a food supplement, so the whole basis of deeming it as a ‘novel food’, as well as being false, is predicated on nothing. The reason for ‘novel foods’ regulation is safety and there is no evidence that CBD is unsafe.

There are just two issues which need addressing in regulating a CBD product: what the product contains and how it is marketed.

The first can be solved, at a stroke, by requiring all products to have an independent laboratory test certificate.  Not a certificate of analysis (COA) from a laboratory commissioned by the supplier but a certificate from an independent laboratory that has itself been certified by the regulator which, yes, should be the FSA. So this independent, ‘official’ COA will specify the cannabinoid content, certify that controlled cannabinoids are within the legal limit and that heavy metals and other contaminants are within prescribed safety limits.

The second can be solved, at a stroke, by properly funding the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to fulfil its function as regulator of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, the law that prohibits claims of medical benefit being made for commercial gain about products which are not licensed as medicines.  The MHRA has dismally failed to fulfil this function, which is ironic as it first brought CBD to regulatory attention in 2016 over the issue of these medical claims.  It simply does not have the resources to do this job. Hundreds of reports have been submitted to the MHRA by the two trade associations, the CTA and CannaPro, but not acted upon.  As a result the law is now widely ignored both by unethical suppliers and by all the national newspapers which regularly run unlawful advertisements and advertorials despite the fact that in theory, the maximum penalty for these offences is two years in jail.

These two steps, taken together, will completely solve the regulatory requirements for the CBD market.

 

Review. ‘The CBD Book. The Essential Guide to CBD Oil’ by Mary Biles

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If you are looking for a basic guide to CBD, then this is the book for you. If you’re looking for a more advanced guide, with in-depth detail about research, then this is also the book for you.

In fact, even if you’re a doctor or scientist, looking for the most comprehensive, user-orientated information about CBD, this is a remarkable achievement by the author, Mary Biles, who I am fortunate to count as a friend and she can justifiably be very proud of it.

As writers in the cannabis space, Mary and I have followed similar paths, so I understand exactly the challenges she will have faced in writing this book and she has handled them wisely.  It is easy-to-read, not in the least dry but manages to pack in a great deal of valuable information, clearly explained scientific evidence and sensible advice which will be of great benefit to all readers.

Contents include the basic science of cannabis, cannabinoids, CBD and the endocannabinoid system; an excellent section on research into using CBD for many medical conditions; wellness; how to take CBD and some useful case studies.

Mary sticks to the science but has a deeper understanding that is not found in simplistic objectivity.  Experience, both her own and learned from others, shows that the absence of evidence does not mean CBD doesn’t work but also that more extreme claims need to be treated with healthy scepticism.

Highly recommended and I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 29, 2020 at 4:45 pm

Professor Les Iversen, Tightrope Walker and Unsung Hero of Cannabis Law Reform

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Leslie Iversen, born October 31 1937, died July 30 2020

Daily Telegraph obituary ‘Leslie Iversen, pioneering neuroscientist who studied the effects of drugs on the brain’

I’m sad that the latter years of Les Iversen’s life have been skipped over in this obituary. As with so many scientists who have had some influence in the political field, he had to tread a tightrope between scientific evidence and the ignorance, bigotry, prejudice of those in politics who are far more concerned with tabloid headlines than facts.

His chairmanship of the ACMD was conducted with great skill and enormous patience as politicians took decisions which were diametrically opposed to evidence. If Les had had his way, the medicinal benefits of cannabis would have been acknowledged far sooner and his knowledge would have cut through the vested interests of senior clinicians which are currently stalling progress on uptake of this most valuable medicine.

Les was appointed chair of ACMD following the disgraceful sacking of David Nutt who had the temerity to tell government the facts about relative drug harms. Les was less of an abrasive character than David Nutt although their professional opinions on government drugs policy were closely aligned. He continued to speak truth to power and, as he told me many times, was completely frustrated by politicians’ attitude to cannabis and their preference for the Daily Mail’s guidance on drugs policy rather than science.

From 2010, as the campaign for cannabis law reform became far more professional and began to attract support from more and more backbench MPs, it was immensely valuable to have someone who was strong and certain in advising ministers of the facts, even if they chose not to act on them. He must take a huge amount of credit for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in 2018. He was immensely skilful at remaining in post in order to provide the best advice while actually telling ministers that their polices were foolish. He has never received the recognition for this that he is due.

Today’s ACMD is supine in comparison, crippled by legislation which has effectively castrated it and turned it into a committee that will confirm whatever the Home Secretary of the day requires. Scientists and clinicians, more than ever, are controlled by the big businesses and fat cats who want to determine drugs policy based on self-interest and prejudice rather than science. Les was one of the last of the noble breed of scientists who told the truth without fear or an overriding concern for their bank balance.

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 27, 2020 at 12:14 pm

The Truth About Why The NHS Is Refusing to Prescribe Medicinal Cannabis

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The reason it is impossible to get medicinal cannabis prescribed on the NHS is not really about doctors’ clinical judgement. There are a growing number of doctors that do want to prescribe but they are being blocked by NHS bureaucrats and the senior clinicians that are responsible for drafting professional guidelines.

Although they aren’t law, these guidelines are what NHS Trusts rely on when they refuse to provide funding.  And this is a huge problem, not just for people in pain who can’t get a medicine that they know works, but for the fundamental nature of our democracy and government. The NHS medical establishment is defying the will of Parliament. It is through Parliament that we make policy in this country and MPs have decided that medicinal cannabis should be made available.

This decision was made by Parliament based on medical evidence from around the world that millions of people gain great benefit from cannabis. Of course, the potential side effects were considered and will have been compared with the side effects of other medicines, particularly the highly addictive and life-threatening nature of opioids. Although you wouldn’t know it from all the scaremongering, there are no case reports anywhere in the world of patients receiving cannabis under medical supervision coming to any significant harm. There is no doubt that cannabis is safe as a medicine. Those opposed to it, usually with vested financial interests, are trying to second guess and undermine a decision that has already been made, often with spurious claims of harms caused by smoking it in its most potent form as a recreational drug.

It’s time that the medical establishment complied with the law. That doesn’t mean taking instructions from politicians, it means working constructively to deliver what has been decided, not finding excuse after excuse and being as obstructive as possible.

The senior clinicians responsible for drafting the guidelines, from the Royal Colleges and other professional bodies, notably the British Paediatric Neurology Association (BPNA), are the same people who have failed to provide up-to-date medical education on the endocannabinoid system. This is the system through which cannabis exerts its therapeutic effects and is now known to be the largest and most fundamental neurotransmitter system in the body. Yet it is barely covered at all in any UK medical school. These same people are also responsible for running and supervising the clinical trials that pharmaceutical companies use to prove the safety and efficacy of their new products. For this they receive very substantial fees and long-running sponsorship for their institutions.  The conflict of interest is obvious, yet is being entirely overlooked.

Professor Finbar O’Callaghan of the BPNA has single-handedly obstructed NHS access to cannabis by hundreds of children with epilepsy that conventional treatment does not help. He describes his professional interests as having “particular emphasis on epidemiology and clinical trials“.  If a cannabis-based medicine for paediatric epilepsy was to be trialled, Professor O’Callaghan would very likely be hired for it.  So it’s hardly surprising that he is opposed to any medicine that hasn’t been through a clinical trial!  It’s worth repeating – the conflict of interest is obvious, yet is being entirely overlooked.

Vested interests mean many doctors prefer to prescribe unlimited quantities of opioids, benzodiazepines and senior clinicians are more focused on earning fees from clinical trials than looking at evidence that is already available. We have a regulatory system which is designed by pharma, for pharma, administered by ex-pharma employees and cannabis is a threat. When the UK eventually gets a domestic cannabis production industry, prices will plummet and we will have a safe, cheap, palliative medicine that can help with many conditions.

Most of the 1.4 million people in the UK already using medicinal cannabis are still breaking the law.  This is astonishing when you think our Parliament acted two years ago to ensure they didn’t have to!  This is all down to a combination of arrogance and ignorance in the far-too-hallowed halls of our oldest medical institutions. Like it or not, medicinal cannabis is now legal and is going to take its rightful place as a first choice medicine in Britain. Let’s put aside the prejudice, put patients’ interests first and start delivering the enormous benefits it can offer.

Written by Peter Reynolds

September 6, 2020 at 6:05 pm

Posted in Health, Science

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