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Medicinal cannabis trial could enable severely ill patients to be treated on the NHS, say campaigners

·2-min read
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TELEMMGLPICT000166038643.jpeg

Medicinal cannabis could be prescribed to epileptic children and other severely ill patients for free under proposals for a medical trial put forward by campaigners.

The mother of Billy Caldwell, the first child to receive a medicinal cannabis prescription, will on Tuesday launch a campaign calling for the trial to establish the efficacy of the treatment.

It comes as Charlotte Caldwell’s son has reached the milestone of one year seizure free after his case forced the Government allow the NHS to prescribe cannabis medicines for him.

Ms Caldwell is now in talks with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to establish the trial where volunteers suffering epilepsy would receive their medicinal cannabis for free.

There are two Cannabis derived drugs currently licensed for use to treat chronic conditions, Epidiolex, which comprises CBD, the non-psychoactive compound drawn from the plant, and Sativex, which contains THC, the psychoactive component of Cannabis or hemp.

These are the only medicines that are covered by the NHS, patients requiring other medicines are forced to go private

Ms Caldwell said: “I am in contact with hundreds of patients daily who are still stuck in limbo - they need a prescription, but they can’t afford it.

“By working with our partners, we want to help patients and create long term solutions through a controlled study.”

Her aim is that the privately funded campaign can gather enough evidence of the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis that the clinical watchdog NICE would allow it to be prescribed for free on the NHS.

The study would be designed with government and regulatory bodies to ensure that the data would be acceptable to NICE.

A clinic has offered to support the campaign and has offered to run a controlled study on a not-for-profit basis, if the NIHR offer the requisite funding required - likely to be millions of pounds.

Boris Johnson has written to Charlotte expressing his sympathy and how Charlotte’s story has “deeply moved him” in a hand signed letter. He also went on to state “how important it is that NHS patients are able to access the most effective treatments”.

Despite medical cannabis being legal since 2018, there is no ongoing, government-funded clinical research into the efficacy of medical cannabis, despite calls from the NIHR.

A campaign spokesman said: “the only way to widen access for patients who cannot afford medical cannabis is to jump this hurdle. Double-blind RCT tests are not appropriate to cannabis due to its psychoactive effects, a RWE control trial is the only way forward.”