The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported 19 July… that they’ve also recommended clinical trials, and work start on product definition…
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has recommended after a review that cannabis-derived medicinal products should be placed in schedule 2 of the misuse of drugs regulations 2001, allowing them to be prescribed by clinicians.
Cannabis is classed as a schedule 1 drug, meaning it is thought to have no therapeutic value and cannot be lawfully possessed or prescribed. It may be used for the purposes of research but a Home Office licence is required.
The recommendation from the ACMD comes after the first part of a review last month was published in which the chief medical officer of England, Sally Davies, concluded there was evidence of “therapeutic benefit” for some conditions.
The home secretary, Sajid Javid, who commissioned both reviews, previously said if both identified significant medical and therapeutic benefits, then cannabis could be rescheduled for medicinal use.
Javid ordered part one of the review last month after a number of high-profile cases involving children being denied access to cannabis oil to control epileptic seizures. The cases include that of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell and six-year-old Alfie Dingley who have forms of intractable epilepsy, also known as refractory epilepsy, that appear to be eased by the use of cannabis oil.
When the review was announced, there were reports that there were divisions within the cabinet over the approach that should be taken – with the prime minister, Theresa May, disagreeing that a review should go ahead.
The chair of the ACMD, Dr Owen Bowden-Jones, said: “We have completed the first part of our review for rapid advice into the scheduling of cannabis-derived medicinal products.
“We recommend that cannabis-derived medicinal products of the appropriate standard be moved out of schedule 1 of the misuse of drugs regulations 2001. This means that medical practitioners would be able to prescribe such medications to patients with certain medical conditions.
“At present, cannabis-derived products can vary greatly in their composition, effectiveness and level of impurity. It is important that clinicians, patients and their families are confident that any prescribed medication is both safe and effective.”
The ACMD has tasked the Department of Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency with producing a definition for the products that could be prescribed.
The council also recommends that clinical trials urgently take place to further establish the safety and effectiveness of different products.
Announcing the review, Javid ruled out legalising the drug for recreational use after interventions by the former Tory leader William Hague and policing officials.
Javid said: “I am grateful to the chief medical adviser for her review of the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis and to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for their short-term advice on scheduling. I am carefully considering both recommendations and will make a decision shortly.”
Jon Liebling, the political director of the United Patients Alliance, which lobbies for a change in the law on the medicinal use of cannabis, said he was not surprised by the change, which pointedly does not include cannabis flowers, the form that is commonly smoked illegally.
“I strongly suspected that this would be the case,” he said. “They are going to be very careful, at least in the first instance, and especially right now before they make any conclusions about what medicinal cannabis policy would look like.”
Ian Hamilton, who researches drug treatment at the University of York, said: “This seems like an overly cautious move from the government’s scientific advisers as this places cannabis in the same schedule as diamorphine, clearly cannabis preparations do not carry the same risk as morphine. The ACMD also seem to be overly concerned about the potential for diversion of medicinal cannabis products.
“I agree with the ACMD that ‘cannabis-derived medicinal preparations’ are poorly defined, so it is good that they have suggested the Home Office define what they are, presumably so an approved list of products can be used by a doctor to treat a patient.”