On Monday 28th October, LYPHE GROUP took their first trip to The Hague. Chief Pharmacist Chris Ashton and Group Managing Director Jon Nadler made the journey in order to acquire a batch of cannabis medicines for a trio of patients in the UK.
This week, Chris Ashton made the trip once again out of necessity due to the current lack of planning and infrastructure for medical cannabis in the UK.
Prescribing medical cannabis in The Netherlands is an established and accepted practice, much as it is in a growing number of countries, from Canada to Israel, Germany and beyond. The UK today is an increasingly singular outlier in its lack of readiness.
The MHRA have not licensed medical cannabis products, and NICE have not provided the regulatory go-ahead for the NHS to support prescriptions, owing to a lack of high quality RCT-grade research. There are no bulk imports of medical products and patients must apply for prescription imports on an individual name basis.
This means patients in the UK must endure difficult applications with complex paperwork requirements and prolonged waiting periods, and must shoulder the burden of costs themselves.
This scenario is forcing unacceptable hardships on many families who need these medicines. They have seen the benefits for themselves, often finding relief for difficult-to-treat conditions that have profoundly threatened the well-being of their loved ones. There should be no surprise that there is a deep dedication among these people to obtain these treatments, whatever the regulations, licensing or costs.
Enabling patient access to medical cannabis is the cornerstone of LYPHE GROUP’s mission, and we will always do what we can. Making this trip was necessary, and we’re delighted we could help these patients. But this isn’t sustainable.
Not only is the current process far too slow and burdensome, it’s creating a situation where insufficient demand for particular kinds of cannabis medicines may lead to the cessation of their manufacturing. We went to a specific pharmacy in The Hague that exclusively manufactures a precise formulation, which is known to be more effective for the individuals seeking treatment than other variations.
Medical cannabis is a distinctly individualised field of medicine, in which medicines will likely achieve the greatest benefit when calibrated to the individual patient. This demands a high level of product variation, which itself requires high level expertise in cultivation and product formulation, resulting in niches of manufacturing specialty.
If one producer stops manufacturing a formulation because it simply isn’t reaching the patients who need it, there’s a real risk that the formulation will simply not exist anymore. This could have a devastating impact, and we have to accelerate our planning for a rational medical cannabis framework.
With our degree of experience and knowledge of the requirements and obstacles, we were again successfully able to bring the medicines in without serious obstructions. This will help the recipients for a time, but it will not be long before there’s a need for another journey.
Our Chief Pharmacist Chris Ashton said of the matter that:
As the one of the patient-facing colleagues in our business, I find it incredibly frustrating that our patients who are so desperate for this medication are forced to wait so long and incur substantial costs due to a system that just doesn’t work. Despite this medication being legal, there remain so many hurdles and restrictions facing our patients in order for them to safely access this medication.The current system is ineffective and will not support the significant numbers of patients out there that are trying to gain access to something that has the potential to change their lives. At LYPHE GROUP we are focused on easy and affordable access for patients, but unless the system changes the market is going to struggle to accommodate all patients’ needs.
There is an urgent demand for the Home Office, MHRA, NICE and the NHS to expand the scope of their considerations of medical cannabis. With a wealth of knowledge and experience to be learned from, from across the world, the UK’s much lauded gold standard of medical regulation will soon start to feel more like conservatism and intractability at the expense of patient wellbeing.
There is a fundamental failure of logic in the current state of medical cannabis being available but only at great difficulty and inequity of access. The half measure we have so far taken must be completed.