Cannabis-based treatments and people with epilepsy
A lot has happened this week around cannabis-based treatments. The government made two big announcements. We promised that we would follow this issue closely and we have been doing just that.
Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley
Over the weekend Billy Caldwell and his family were granted a temporary licence to access his cannabis oil treatment by the Home Secretary. Since then everything has moved very fast.
A temporary licence has also been issued for Alfie Dingley to allow him to access cannabis oil treatment. Epilepsy Action welcomes the decision to grant these temporary licences and the confirmation that they will be able to continue to use it.
Temporary license panel (short-term)
On Monday 18 June 2018, the government announced that an expert panel would be set up. The panel will advise the government on applications for temporary licences to use medical cannabis. Applications will be looked at on a case-by-case basis and decisions will be clinically led and evidence based. Any applications must be made by a senior clinician and the panel will start accepting applications almost immediately.
Review of cannabis-based treatments
On Tuesday 19 June 2018, the Home Secretary announced that the government will be reviewing the legal status of cannabis-based medicines. The review will be a two-part process.
During the first part of the review, an expert panel will look at all the available evidence of the medical and therapeutic value of cannabis-based treatments. The panel can recommend cannabis-based treatments with potential medical value to be looked at in part two of the review.
The second part of the review will look at the potential public health benefits and the potential harms of specific cannabis-based treatments. This will be carried out by the government’s drug advisory council, the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
If there are specific cannabis-based treatments that pass this review process, these treatments will then be rescheduled by the government. This means that they can be legally prescribed by clinicians.
Epilepsy Action welcomes the steps taken by the government on this issue. It is vital that people with epilepsy are able to access the most appropriate treatment for their condition. It is also vital that any medicines are safe and effective. This process should ensure that any cannabis-based medicines that are recommended by the review are both safe and effective.
As the short-term licensing panel begins its work and the review of cannabis-based treatments is set up, Epilepsy Action have set out a number of points that we will be focusing on throughout this process.
- That the actions announced this week by the government to set up an expert panel and to review the scheduling of cannabis-based treatments be carried out as quickly as possible.
- That the cases of others who might benefit from cannabis-based medicines be treated with the same compassion and urgency as has been shown towards Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley.
- That ultimately we want clinicians to be able to prescribe cannabis-based treatments for people with epilepsy where these medicines have been proved to be effective and safe.
- More high-quality research that will identify effective and safe cannabis-based treatments for epilepsy.
- For the patient perspective to be represented on the temporary licensing panel and, where appropriate, during the review process.
We will continue to follow this issue very closely and keep you updated as things progress.