Large-scale UK Medicinal Cannabis Trials to Begin

Liz Filmer
28 Mar 2022

Large-scale trials of medicinal cannabis will begin very soon in the UK.The trials will examine the effects of the drug on people living with epilepsy. The government body will supervise the new research by the National Institute for Health Research.

Cannabis-based treatment is currently only prescribed on the NHS as a last option. It is very well documented how hard it is to obtain a prescription for medicinal cannabis in the UK. Medical cannabis is available in various forms, including flower to be smoked or vaporised. You can also take it in pill or oil form.

Many patients with epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, or chemotherapy think the drug may also assist with pain and nausea. It should be more widely distributed across all medical settings. Therapy is currently on hold because NICE, the NHS commissioning authority, believes there is "insufficient evidence" to suggest full use of cannabis. However, physicians may still investigate if "clinically appropriate in individual cases".

Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine, who previously introduced a Private Members Bill to legalise medicinal cannabis, said people have been waiting far too long for the treatment. In response, the government has committed to supporting and establishing two large-scale studies to offer evidence. The specifics of which are still being discussed.

 "Families across the UK are waiting desperately for these medical cannabis trials to begin. We've seen the huge impact these treatments can have and how they can give people their lives back."The Government have dragged their feet for too long on this. It's welcome that trials are planned, but they must begin immediately - so we can begin to roll out these treatments as soon as possible."

Additionally, Maria Caulfield, the UK Health Minister, has said, "The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) reviewed the best available evidence when developing its guideline on prescribing cannabis-based medicinal products. However, NICE has discovered that current research is limited and low quality. Observational studies with few patients do not produce sufficiently robust results to inform routine clinical or commissioning decisions."

To formulate evidence on medical cannabis, NICE will be supporting the National Institute for Health Research with two random controlled trials into epilepsy in adults and children. The trials are to commence imminently. The results will be published once completed, and the findings have been peer-reviewed.

Liz Filmer