Proposals to name and shame businesses that fail to provide cannabis drugs for use in U.K. clinical trials have been made by Members of Parliament.
After months of interviews and weighing-up reams of evidence The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee has issued its latest report; ‘Drugs policy: medicinal cannabis’. It concludes that the main reason so few NHS cannabis prescriptions have been made in the U.K. – believed to be no more than 10 – is that clinicians fear they will be putting their jobs on the line by prescribing cannabis medication.
According to the NHS England, “As with prescribing any other unlicensed medicine, it is a clinical decision to determine the most appropriate medication or course of treatment to prescribe for a patient, having taken into account the patient, the clinical condition, the clinical evidence of efficacy and safety and the suitability of licensed medicines.”
However the problem in the U.K. is such special drugs are subject to stringent guidelines. The committee report elaborates: “Doctors must be satisfied that there is a sufficient evidence base for prescribing the unlicensed product.
“If there is an insufficient evidence base, doctors are reluctant to prescribe knowing that they are taking personal responsibility for doing so and that there could be serious professional and legal consequences if there are adverse outcomes for their patient.”
The report goes on to say it believes more research is needed into cannabis prescriptions in the U.K. It says the Government and industry should work to further the evidence base in order to improve the confidence of doctors and allow more products to be licensed.
But it says one of the barriers to research is that industry is not always prepared to supply products for research trials. “We heard throughout our inquiry that some pharmaceutical companies were not willing to provide their product for trial,” the report says.
One senior clinician told the committee she believes some companies do not feel the ‘need to do the trials because it is just going to be prescribed and therefore it is going to be okay’.
It concludes that some such companies should be sanctioned adding: “The Department should not be afraid to ‘name and shame’ companies who are not doing all they can to make their products available for research.” However, this approach has been criticized by the cannabis industry with Hari Guliani, Chief Operating Officer of London firm Grow Biotech saying:
“We welcome the recommendation to increase engagement with patients and the public on this and the focus on helping families of children with intractable epilepsy.
“However, the risk of ‘naming and shaming’ companies who do not support all forms of research is likely to dissuade companies from investing in the UK, compared with other jurisdictions. Instead, it would be helpful to encourage these companies to develop a greater understanding in the UK.”