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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘UK Cannabis Trade Association

Report Of Meeting With MHRA On Regulation of Cannabidiol (CBD).

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Tom Whettem, Cannabidol; Anthony Cohen, Elixinol UK; Tom Rowland, CBD Oils UK; Karl Spratt, Hempire; Peter Reynolds, CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform; Mike Harlington, GroGlo Research & Development

Tom Whettem, Canabidol; Anthony Cohen, Elixinol UK; Tom Rowland, CBD Oils UK; Karl Spratt, Hempire; Peter Reynolds, CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform; Mike Harlington, GroGlo Research & Development

Yesterday, 3rd November 2016, six delegates from the UK Cannabis Trade Association (UKCTA) met with Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) representatives at the agency’s headquarters in Victoria.

We were courteously received. The meeting was cordial, productive and enabled both sides to clarify their positions and better understand each other’s perspective.

In summary, in my opinion, there is no immediate threat to to CBD consumers or businesses. The MHRA has now extended until 31 December 2016 the date by which businesses should voluntarily comply with its opinion, either by withdrawing existing products from the market, or by complying with necessary regulation. Thereafter, the next step would be to begin the process of statutory enforcement.  This would take a matter of some months and I believe, even were this to be started, we are looking at more than a year before any impact would be felt.  More importantly, based on the meeting, I think the outcome is likely to be that we can negotiate a form of regulation that will work for everyone.

The MHRA team was led by Gerald Heddell, Director of Inspection, Enforcement and Standards. Also present were regulatory advisors David Olszowska and Chris Groutides; Dr Chris Jones, Manager of the Medicines Borderline Section; Greg Markey, Senior Medical Assessor and Malcolm Evans, Head of Patient, Public and Stakeholder Engagement.  Mr Heddell opened the meeting by thanking us for bringing to the agency’s attention just how many people are using CBD, some for quite serious medical conditions.

The MHRA set out its reasons for its opinion that products containing CBD used for medical purposes are medicines.  Greg Markey explained the mechanisms of action and pharmacology that had been considered and Dr Jones explained that the Borderline Section existed to deal specifically with products where it was difficult to determine whether they should be regarded as medicines or food supplements.  The example was offered of vitamin C where if it was being used to treat scurvy then it was clearly a medicine, whereas if it was used to supplement a normal diet it could be regarded as a food supplement.  We were able to explain that all so-called CBD products on the market, with the exception of crystals, are actually whole plant extracts from low-THC cannabis, usually industrial hemp.  We pointed out that the growth in the CBD market had been driven by people seeking the therapeutic benefits of medicinal cannabis which until now had been denied by the British government.

The nub of the issue is really the nature of the condition for which CBD is used.  The MHRA has already issued orphan designations for CBD for Dravet Syndrome, graft versus host disease and perinatal asphyxia.  Orphan designations are granted where the benefit of a medicine can be recognised even though necessary regulatory processes have not yet been completed.  It is important to understand that this is what has guided the MHRA’s opinion, viewing CBD as a medicine for very serious conditions.

We discussed a range of options whereby, at the lowest level, CBD products could continue to be marketed as a food supplement.  For minor conditions, not requiring medical supervision, it may be possible to obtain a Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) at a cost of a few hundred pounds.  A third option is a ‘Specials’ exemption where a doctor or prescriber has specified and taken responsibility for an unlicensed medicine for a particular patient.  Finally, the highest level is a Marketing Authorisation (MA) where the costs including fees and clinical trials are probably a minimum of £250,000.

It is our view that CBD products should be regulated at all these different levels dependent on the purpose for which they are used and the concentration at which CBD is present.  We have agreed that we will write formally setting out these proposals and the MHRA will respond accordingly.

The UKCTA and a number of individual companies have now obtained legal advice including counsel’s opinion.  We have shared this with the MHRA and formal solicitors letters have already been served.  In essence, the advice is that the MHRA has failed to comply with its own guidelines and requirements in issuing its opinion to CBD suppliers and that any requirement to comply with regulations would have to be addressed on an individual, product by product basis.

So, all in all, we believe the meeting was a success.  We demonstrated that the new trade association is to be taken seriously and that we will work constructively with the agency.  There was visible surprise at the level of professionalism we presented, particularly with the legal advice we had obtained.  I believe we convinced the MHRA that we could establish a set of rules, guidelines and standards that would enable the industry to comply with its requirements.

The CBD market in the UK is presently worth several million pounds a year.  If it is to continue to grow, provide safe, effective products for consumers and patients and job security for its workers, then we need to establish UKCTA so that it effectively represents the whole industry.  We need to show that we are responsible, we care, we are professionals and we are ready to put our collective head above the parapet as a legal, ethical and regulated industry.

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MHRA Backtracking Super Fast On CBD Ban.

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mhra_logo_600In advance of the meeting between the UK Cannabis Trade Association (UKCTA) and the MHRA on Thursday, there has been a flurry of activity which amounts to a climb down by the regulator.

This statement was published on the MHRA website at lunchtime today.

“Update 1 November 2016

An MHRA spokesperson said:

While MHRA has given its opinion that products containing cannabidiol (CBD) used for medical purposes are medicines, we have also carefully considered the needs of individuals using CBD products to treat or manage the symptoms of medical conditions.

Our primary concern is patient safety. In order to ensure that products remain available until individuals have the opportunity to discuss their treatment with their doctor, companies now have until 31 December 2016 to voluntarily operate within the law, by withdrawing their existing products from the market, or working with MHRA to satisfy the legal requirements of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012.

We have today written to the manufacturers of CBD to make them aware of the timeline for engagement.

It is vital that medicines meet safety, quality and efficacy standards to protect public health.”

Originally the MHRA wrote to CBD suppliers in threatening terms:

“You must cease to sell, supply, promote, advertise or process orders for the above products until appropriate authorisation has been granted for them.  You must confirm this in writing within 28 days from the date of this letter that you have taken the above steps.”

So quite a change in tone.  The MHRA seems to have recognised that contrary to its declared mission ‘to improve health’, its original statement actually endangered the health of tens of thousands of people.

Additionally, solicitors representing the UKCTA have now written to the MHRA seeking clarification of its intentions and making three crucial points:

  • The letters to CBD suppliers and the MHRA’s original press statement have caused serious financial damage to the CBD industry.
  • The MHRA has conducted no effective consultation with stakeholders.
  • The MHRA’s own guidelines require it to consider each product on a case by case basis and a blanket ban on products containing CBD would be unlawful.
Professor Mike Barnes

Professor Mike Barnes

Professor Mike Barnes, scientific and medical advisor to CLEAR, commented:

“The MHRA’s new stance is an improvement from their previous position. However, I cannot see any value in delaying only a few months. Some patients might be able to find an alternative medicine from their doctor but many people will have already tried alternative medications and found that CBD is the only satisfactory treatment for their condition. This is the case, for example, for children with epilepsy who will have almost certainly have been under the care of a specialist and tried available anticonvulsants and found that CBD is the only treatment that works for them. The MHRA does not seem to realise the impact of this arbitrary and rushed decision which will clearly be detrimental and potentially have very serious (and in some cases life threatening) implications for some people. The MHRA need to work with the manufacturers and the medical profession to determine the best way forward that both recognises that cannabis based products have medicinal value, and as such need proper trials of efficacy and safety, yet on the other hand does not place existing users at risk of harm”.

UK Cannabis Trade Association Meeting With MHRA This Week.

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MHRA Headquarters

MHRA Headquarters

After all the speculation, many misleading and false reports and a plethora of attempts to interpret the MHRA’s actions concerning cannabidiol (CBD), this week the chips are down.

On Thursday 3rd November, at MHRA headquarters in Victoria, six representatives of the UK Cannabis Trade Association (UKCTA) will sit down with those responsible for the agency’s statements on CBD.  We will be armed with counsel’s opinion on the legality of the MHRA’s action but most importantly we hope to secure clarification for those who rely on CBD as a food supplement.  We will publish details of the outcome of the meeting as soon as we can.

Those attending as UKCTA representatives are:

Anthony Cohen, Elixinol UK
Mike Harlington, GroGlo Horticultural Research & Development
Peter Reynolds, CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform
Tom Rowland, CBD Oils UK
Karl Spratt, Hempire
Tom Whettem, Canabidol

MHRA Confirms Meeting With CBD Industry Representatives.

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cbd-molecule-over-plant

Today, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has arranged a meeting with representatives from the UK Cannabis Trade Association (UKCTA) to discuss its designation of cannabidiol (CBD) as a medicine.

mhra-logoA request for a meeting was was first made in writing on 20th September 2016, when the possibility of the MHRA’s action was still little more than a rumour.  Nearly six weeks later, after repeated requests, complaints and lobbying from many companies, individuals and MPs, the meeting has been fixed for 3rd November 2016.

The main aim of the meeting will be to discuss interim arrangements for people currently using CBD as a food supplement.  Clearly, we will also address concerns over the impact of this decision on many small businesses and the people they employ.

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 19, 2016 at 5:08 pm

The Man From The MHRA. Endangering Public Health With Precipitate Action On CBD.

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Dr Ian Hudson, Chief Executive, MHRA

Dr Ian Hudson, Chief Executive, MHRA

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) apparent decision to designate cannabidiol (CBD) as a medicine is an unholy mess and has been handled about as badly as it is possible for a government agency to deal with a matter of public safety.

The desk of Dr Ian Hudson, the Chief Executive, will shortly be groaning under the weight of correspondence from MPs asking him to explain exactly what is going on.  We know that the MHRA call centre has been swamped with calls from people desperate for information and in fear that they will be cut off from supplies of the food supplement that is so important for their health.  Many are now being told that no final decision has been taken and everyone is in limbo waiting for some coherent response.  We say “apparent decision” because nothing is clear, no public statement has been issued and anything you have seen in the press is from responses to individuals.

Crispin Blunt, the Conservative MP and a member of the CLEAR advisory board has written to Dr Hudson urging him to meet with CLEAR, Professor Mike Barnes and the newly-formed UK Cannabis Trade Association to discuss what interim arrangements can be put in place.  Tens of thousands of people’s health has been placed in jeopardy and not for trivial matters.  People suffering from serious conditions such as epilepsy, chronic pain, anxiety and Crohn’s Disease have come to rely on CBD products to maintain their health. There are also hundreds of jobs in danger at suppliers providing CBD to the UK market.

We know that many CLEAR members have asked their MP to write to the MHRA seeking clarification.  In Crispin Blunt’s letter he goes further.

“The decision to designate CBD as a medicine is directly contradicted by the Home Office’s position that cannabis has no medicinal value.  It is vital that we do not let this anomaly in government policy cause harm to people’s health. I should be grateful, therefore, if you could explain how the MHRA reached its decision, the consultations it undertook, which specific regulatory regime it proposes for these products and whether the continued supply of these products, regulated as food supplements, can be ensured until such time medicinal marketing authorisations can be obtained.”

CLEAR has received a holding response from the MHRA indicating that a meeting will be arranged and that we will hear by the end of this week. Responsible action from a government agency that is supposed to protect, not endanger public health is urgently needed.

 

Professor Mike Barnes Speaks Out On the CBD Ban.

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professor-mike-barnes-crop

Professor Mike Barnes, Scientific and Medical Advisor to CLEAR

Professor Mike Barnes, neurologist, scientific and medical advisor to CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform, has issued the following statement.

“It is encouraging that the MRHA is recognising that CBD has medicinal value but it is concerning that many people benefitting from CBD now will suffer in the short term as good quality manufacturers have to stop production pending MRHA approval” 

A redacted copy of the letter now being sent to all CBD suppliers can be seen here.

For some weeks, rumours and half stories have been swirling around about the MHRA taking action on CBD.

Initially a number of suppliers were warned about making medicinal claims, even testimonials from satisfied customers were ruled as unlawful.  Anything which suggested that CBD was a medicine or provided therapeutic effects was ruled out under UK medicines legislation.

Responsible CBD suppliers have known this for some time and were scrupulous in ensuring no such claims were made, even including disclaimers explicitly stating that their products were not for medical use. But as CLEAR has reported many times before, the CBD market is full of cowboys, get-rich-quick scam artists that tell bare faced lies about their products as well as making outlandish claims for the medicinal benefits.  The crackdown from the MHRA was inevitable when these fools put their short term gain ahead of developing a responsible and self-regulating market in which CBD could continue to be sold as a food supplement.

We have seen every sort of bad practice it is possible to imagine.  Some suppliers have attacked all of their competitors, stating that they are the only ‘ethical’ supplier and everyone else is telling lies.  MediPen put all its resources and efforts into marketing and PR without providing proper information to customers about what its product contained.  It achieved great coverage in tabloids like the Metro and the Mirror and even managed to spin a wholly misleading story that the NHS was “trialling” its product (In fact it was at last using an NHS accredited laboratory to test its product contents, that is all).  Another supplier called Sacred Kana was rebranding cheap and nasty Romanian hemp extract and selling a bottle for just over £50, claiming it contained 10,000 mg of CBD.  Testing showed that it actually contained less than 200 mg. Wrapped up in a warm, cuddly hippy-style marketing campaign, they were trying to pass themselves off as the Rick Simpson of CBD when all they are is conmen.

Responsible suppliers did include CBD information on their websites and often linked to scientific studies and research.  Clearly, even this has become too much for the MHRA and now the market is being closed down.  You can thank the greedy idiots, the conmen and the barrow boy salesmen trying to pretend they were scientists.

Of course the truth is that CBD is medicine, so the MHRA isn’t wrong.  Most CBD products are, in fact, low-THC, whole plant extracts, so they were, effectively, a legal form of cannabis.  The therapeutic benefits they offered were not just from CBD but from the ‘entourage effect’, recognised by science as the synergy between all the different components of cannabis.  Unfortunately, we even had some companies promoting the fact that their so-called ‘CBD oil’ actually contained significant proportions of THC and CBN, both ‘controlled drugs’ under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The crackdown was inevitable but it may leave tens of thousands of people with real health problems as they are no longer able to obtain what they were legitimately using as a food supplement.

Crispin Blunt MP, Political Advisor to CLEAR

Crispin Blunt MP, Political Advisor to CLEAR

Of course, designating CBD as a medicine is inconsistent with the UK government’s position that cannabis has “no medicinal value” but it’s been common knowledge that this is untrue for many years.  The only good news coming out of this debacle is that this could be the beginning of proper, honest regulation of cannabis as medicine. But if we’re looking at clinical trials before CBD can be marketed again, it could be many years away and that’s after someone or some company decides to invest the £250,000 or more that could cost.

CBD products will still be available offshore and you probably will be able to order online and have them delivered by post.  The price is bound to go up and you will be committing a criminal offence by importing an unlicensed medicine but no doubt may will choose to take this risk.

CLEAR is working with the UK Cannabis Trade Association and our Advisory Board members Professor Mike Barnes and Crispin Blunt MP, to try and persuade the MHRA to enter a consultation process and allow CBD to remain available as a food supplement in the short term.

In the longer term, as we know far too well, the only solution is for a proper system of regulation for cannabis. including its use as medicine.

Fast Developing News On CBD And Medicinal Cannabis.

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cbd-molecule-spoon-oil

We learned today that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has started issuing letters to CBD suppliers advising them that CBD is being designated as a medicine and that sale of CBD products must stop within 28 days.

This will be alarming news to many people.  However, it is a complex situation which has some positive aspects to it.  In the short term, if you are already using CBD products, you would be well advised to stock up as much as you can afford.

CLEAR has been aware of this possibility for several weeks and consequently we have been working with leading CBD suppliers and licensed producers of both low and high THC cannabis on establishing the UK Cannabis Trade Association (UKCTA).  We are already in correspondence with the MHRA seeking to represent all stakeholders, to establish a consultation process on regulating CBD products and to protect the interests of producers, suppliers and consumers.

lovehemp-oilWhat these MHRA letters mean is that for CBD to be sold in future, suppliers will have to obtain either a ‘marketing authorisation’ or a ‘traditional herbal registration’ from the MHRA.

A marketing authorisation can be fantastically expensive, requiring an initial application fee of £103,000 and full scale clinical trials demonstrating safety and efficacy.

A traditional herbal registration is not as expensive, around £6,000 but relies on the product having been “traditionally used to treat the stated condition for a minimum of 30 years, 15 years of which must have been in the European Union (EU).”  It also requires “scientific evidence relating to the safety, quality and traditional use of the herbal product”. It is far from certain that CBD will qualify for this scheme and in any event registration is only granted if the medicine is used for minor health conditions where medical supervision is not required.

CBD is not a ‘controlled drug’ and is not prohibited but most CBD products are in fact low-THC, whole plant extracts derived from industrial hemp, legally grown under licence.  So yes, they are a legal form of cannabis and, of course, according to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, cannabis has ‘no medicinal value’.  So, you may well ask, how can the MHRA classify it as a medicine?

MHRA Headquarters

MHRA Headquarters

This is just the first of many complications for the MHRA, the Home Office and the government. Potentially, it could be very positive as it could make the government acknowledge the medicinal value of cannabis and, in effect, force the beginning of cannabis regulation.

It has been certain for some time that many of the CBD products presently on the market are unlawful because they contain levels of THC and CBN which exceed the limits stated in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. Some CBD suppliers have taken a head in the sand attitude to this, even in some cases foolishly promoting the THC levels in their products. This led to CLEAR removing its  endorsement of one supplier earlier this year and recommending CBD Oils UK instead.

epidiolexThe path ahead is uncertain. The UKCTA is pressing for an urgent meeting with the MHRA. Apart from the advice to consumers to stock up, these will be very worrying times for CBD suppliers and their employees. Another factor is that GW Pharmaceuticals is very close to applying for FDA approval in the USA and an MHRA marketing authorisation for its CBD epilepsy medicine, Epidiolex.

CLEAR, the UKCTA and leading CBD companies are working together to clarify and progress this situation.  We will keep you closely informed of developments.