A paper by the Health and Social Care Committee had called on the Home Office not to confiscate cannabis products from parents of sick children.
It reports: “We are deeply sympathetic to families who want to be able to use medicinal cannabis to treat their children and who have seen individual benefit but are unable to obtain the product here in the UK.
“There needs to be a sense of urgency to explore the potential of medicinal cannabis in these conditions so that there is a robust research base on which to base future clinical decisions. We also call on the Government to desist from confiscating prescribed medicinal cannabis obtained overseas under specialist supervision.”
The paper also blames a lack of research for many products remaining unlicensed:
“There is potential medicinal benefit to cannabis-based products but the gaps in the research base mean that we do not know where this sits alongside other therapies.
“The Government should focus efforts in facilitating research especially in those areas where there is greatest patient need, as in the case of children with intractable epilepsy. We heard arguments that the small numbers of patients makes it difficult to conduct double blind RCTs but the Chief Medical Officer argued that if treatments are highly effective then this can be demonstrated with smaller numbers and that trials can be discontinued early in order that all participants can benefit.
“The UK needs to do more to learn from international best practice. We reiterate the importance of the UK being able to take part in multi-centre international research and post marketing surveillance. Some have argued that double blind RCTs are inappropriate for cannabis research but we do not support making an exemption for this class of medicines.”
A spokesperson for the Academy for Medical Cannabis, which aims to educate healthcare professionals in the UK on medicinal cannabis, said: “More awareness is needed of the scope of existing evidence, and of the breadth of available global clinical experience. We commend the calls to remove barriers to more high-level research.”
These barriers include product manufacturers obstructing clinical trials, according to the report.
MPs note that certain pharmaceutical companies are not making products available for clinical trials.
They urge the Department of Health to “name and shame” companies obstructing trials into cannabis products “as a matter of urgency”.
The report also claims that the government “failed to communicate” the lack of research-based evidence to the public, prompting a backlash against doctors from people eager to access the benefits of medical cannabis.
It concludes: “The reality of the change in law was that medicinal cannabis products were rescheduled, which allowed them to be prescribed. However, most medicinal cannabis products are unlicensed, and therefore remain governed by a restrictive prescribing process. The Government failed to communicate this point, and unduly raised the hopes and expectations of patients and their families.
“The Home Office, Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England should consult relevant patient and professional organisations and form a communications plan to relay clear information to patients and the wider public about the availability of CBPMs and the need for further research.”
Read the report in full here.