The United Kingdom of Green Britain

30th November 2018 (Last Updated November 29th, 2018 15:25)

As medicinal cannabis hits the U.K., CTA’s Harry Parsons takes a look at the ground-breaking reform taking place and how it could impact clinical research

The United Kingdom of Green Britain

The green mist descends on the U.K. as a certain substance continues to grow in popularity and divide opinion. In late July 2018, the U.K. government commissioned cannabis as a viable medicine on the National Health Service (NHS) for those suffering from various specified illnesses. Available from Nov. 1 2018, the drug is said to be revolutionary in its ability to help people deal with severe illnesses.

The drug became available for GP distribution after the U.K.’s Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, said earlier this year in July: “Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory.”

As a result, the medicine is now available to those with the following:

  • Adults with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy
  • Muscle stiffness caused by multiple sclerosis
  • Children with rare and severe forms of epilepsy

Coming as the strain on the NHS increases, General Practitioners (GPs) are expecting an increase in those asking to be prescribed the drug. However, only on condition of extreme circumstances are patients allowed the drug.

Previously, cannabis was legal in the U.K., albeit for medicinal purposes. However, it was banned in 1971 as the substance was viewed as a gateway drug to the other substances. Though some still believe this to be true, clinical research has since proven cannabis has numerous health benefits that suggested relegalizing the drug has its merits, if administered correctly.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has asked the U.K. Department of Health and Social Care to reach an agreement on what defines a cannabis-derived medicinal product. The chairman of the ACMD stated these products vary in composition, effectiveness and their level of impurity, further reporting that cannabis of unknown composition should not be considered as medication.

How Does Medicinal Cannabis Work?

Cannabinoid (CBD) oil, found in cannabis plants, uses two types of receptor proteins – CB1 and CB2. These make up the endocannabinoid system, including the body’s home-grown versions of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD. The oil can impact your motor coordination, mood, perception of pain, and the development of your immune system. This helps those in severe pain or distress in particular.

Leading the way on cannabis clinical research is GW Pharmaceuticals, a company creating a portfolio of prescription medicines sourced from cannabis. Recently, GW announced the data from their phase I and phase II clinical trials. Tested on diseases like multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries, the data generated showed clear improvements, especially to those with conditions considered to be intractable by standard therapy. Of the 44 patients who completed the trial, 41 sustained a sufficient beneficial response for them to continue on active treatment long term.

Cannabis Cosmetics

Meanwhile, in the world of cosmetics, hemp oil is being celebrated for its fantastic moisturizing properties, and has even found its way onto the U.K. high street. However, it does not stand alone. CBD oil also features similar qualities for reducing redness and has been used for treating skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. But don’t take our word for it, MGS Derma conducted a four-week clinical trial involving 90 people with various skin conditions. The results showed the creams reduced 70 percent of the side effects.

As long-held perceptions of cannabis begin to change, the medicinal possibilities of the substance seem to know no bounds. Treating conditions from acne to epilepsy, medicinal cannabis is true dark horse of in medical world, exhibiting its worth every day.