Prof Mike Barnes, one of the UK’s leading cannabis clinicians responds to suggestions that the medicines for UK children with epilepsy can be sourced domestically.
ON December 17, last year, we learnt that as a result of Brexit over 40 UK families would no longer be able to secure their children’s cannabis medicines from Holland.
The children rely on these particular products to treat their epilepsy and this has left the families in a horrendous position.
One month on and the supplies of the medicine are running out – and still we are waiting for a solution to be found.
The medicines were previously sourced from the Transvaal Pharmacy in The Hague, in the Netherlands, through a prescription written by UK doctors, including myself.
But this arrangement has been scrapped as a result of Brexit and UK prescriptions can no longer be fulfilled by pharmacies in the EU.
The whole situation is a disgraceful mess even down to the way it was communicated.
It wasn’t the individual families themselves who were informed rather “Interested parties” such as the medical cannabis clinics and the logistics firms handling the imports.
‘It’s A Disgrace’
The Dutch and British Governments must have known for months that this was going to happen. It is a pretty disgraceful way to treat people – leaving it so late, and not even writing to the parents of the children individually.
The British Government says there are other products that the children can transition to, but that is simply not the case.
Switching the 40-plus children from the Bedrocan products to other products could have fatal consequences.
A short term solution would be for the Dutch to continue to recognise the prescription from British doctors. This could be one of the options to be considered by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the Home Office.
A long-term solution might be more difficult to find; one alternative would be to import the flower into the UK so the medicine can be made domestically, however, this has its difficulties.
Such a pathway would involve the cultivator of the cannabis flowers, Bedrocan, and the pharmacy disclosing commercially confidential information.
This would involve Bedrocan disclosing details on its chemovars and the pharmacy disclosing details on its extraction processes.
Simply knowing the CBD to THC ratio of the oil is not enough as we have discovered over many years of prescribing these medicines.
The other main factors to take into account are the levels of other cannabinoids and terpenes. These are key determinants in the success of the cannabis medicines and these are unique to the needs of the individual patient.
Many children have tried the more widely-used cannabis medicines, including the CBD isolates, and have found they have not worked for them.
While I understand there are people out there who want to help, who want to get involved, perhaps they don’t understand the hurdles that need to be overcome?
Not every child will need the Bedrocan products; some might be fine with other products and this process is often a one of trial and error. Every child is unique.
They are not the magic bullet for all children with epilepsy, but they work for many and if we were still part of the EU then they would still be receiving their medicines.
Up until December 17 we did not know this was going to happen. This is now putting children’s lives at risk and there can be no compromise. It needs to be sorted – and soon.
Prof Mike Barnes, Director, Maple Tree Medical Cannabis Consultancy