The Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs’ recent report on cannabis medicines is a missed opportunity, says Pierre Van Weperen of The Grow Group
AS a leading distributor of unlicensed CBMPs in the UK, Grow Pharma welcomes research commissioned by the government into this very exciting and rapidly growing area.
For the benefit of many current and future patients a proper assessment of the impact that legislation has or could have on helping patients would be very important.
A review of that type would ideally be supported by a complete view and overview of the market.
However, The Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs report ‘Cannabis-based products for medicinal use (CBPMs) in humans’ fails to do that whilst providing insight into prescription numbers of the three licensed CBPMs in the UK (Sativex, Nabilone and Epidyolex) from 2018 onwards, the report would have greatly benefitted from more insight into the private prescription market for unlicensed CBMPs.
The report names a few products and lists the number of applications that have been submitted to Home Office for imports and then unfortunately stops saying that the actual number of imports or prescriptions has not been confirmed.
From an industry perspective I am sure that we would have gladly provided the ACDM with insight into the private market which would have probably allowed for a significant rephrasing of conclusions.
Currently from Grow Pharma’s view of the ecosystem, at least 1,000, potentially even 1,500 patients in the UK are being prescribed unlicensed CBPMs through private prescriptions.
Price Point Data ‘Incorrect’
They are being prescribed these medications to manage a variety of symptoms related to their underlying illness.
From seizures in epilepsy (notably after conventional medication and licensed CBPMs stopped working), to the management of severe chronic pain (after opioids stopped working or side effects became too severe), neuropathic pain, cancer related pain, mental health issues and many others.
Also very important to notice is that with a broad stroke the report comments that prices of unlicensed medicines remain high when compared to licensed medications.
This is far from the truth. For some patients it is correct that after licensed CBPMs have stopped working they had to resort to unlicensed (full spectrum) medication that is indeed expensive.
Notably the report doesn’t quote the price for Epidyolex whilst making a comment about the unlicensed CBPMs.
For many other disease areas and symptoms that patients are managing there is (a) no licensed CBPM alternative and (b) we again would have gladly provided broad insight into prices to patients (including dispensing and delivery cost) that have come down by 30-50% since 2018. These prices are a lot lower than the report suggests.
Last but not least as an industry we would welcome an open dialogue with government to address some of the apparent information gaps and give more insight into the data and the benefits of these medicines and importantly work with together on that basis to increase access to patients who would greatly benefit from these medicines.
Pierre Van Weperen, Managing Director, Grow Biotech, and CEO, Grow Pharma