RESPONSE TO ANNOUNCEMENT OF MEDICAL CANNABIS PANEL

June 27, 2018.

 

GOVERNMENT'S EXPERT PANEL COULD COLLAPSE SYSTEM BECAUSE CLINICIANS DON'T UNDERSTAND MEDICINAL CANNABIS - AND APPLICATIONS ARE INVITED FROM PEOPLE WITH A FAR WIDER RANGE OF CONDITIONS.

The first day of the rest of the lives of hundreds of children with epilepsy is in the hands of the Government's much anticipated expert panel of clinicians which has been announced today, Wednesday, June 27, 2018 - but doubts have been raised about the plan.

There are also now concerns the process could collapse because doctors don't understand medicinal cannabis - and the Government has invited applications from people suffering from a wide-range of conditions, not just epilepsy.

Charlotte Caldwell, mother of Billy, whose anti-epileptic seizure medication was confiscated at Heathrow Airport sixteen days ago, says this is an historic opportunity to completely change the lives of children and families impacted by epilepsy, but the announcement looks il-considered.

She is also concerned that too much liability is placed with specialist clinicians to get it right, and references to them being "expected to accept full responsibility for risks and liability" may result in health professionals being reluctant to get involved.

Referring clinicians will also have to show the panel that they have exhausted all legal alternatives, and that there are exceptional circumstances warranting the prescription of cannabis-based anti-epileptic seizure medication with "illegal" levels of THC.

Charlotte Caldwell said: "While this will be the first day of the rest of many lives, we have some grave concerns that clinicians will simply not have the knowledge and understanding of cannabis. They may also be concerned by references in the legislation to them having to take full responsibility for risks and liability.

"It means we therefore have several questions which must be answered directly and convincingly. There is absolutely no room for uncertainty."

Those questions are:

1. Who will sit on the panel, and how qualified are the panel members in assessing and understanding the use of medical cannabis? 

2. When will the expert panel start assessments?

3. While the drug licensing decision will be made within four weeks, what is the timescale for the application process? 

4. While the costs are laid out - up to £4,700 for a licence - it is unclear whether the institutions applying for the licence will be willing to carefully consider each and every application, or whether they are going to be discouraged by the fee? Are there going to be future moves towards clinicians passing on the cost?

5. How many applications does the panel expect to approve? 

6. What guidance will be offered to GPs who have no experience or knowledge of medical cannabis?

7. What will be the penalties for clinicians who contravene any regulations relating to breach of process?

8. Will children in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland be eligible to be assessed by the expert panel?

Charlotte added: "The fast and decisive work of the Government in responding to the issue of modernisation of medicinal cannabis legislation must not be wasted. Momentum must be maintained."

BASIA ZIENIEWICZ