UK large-scale trial of medicinal weed, scaled back.

Liz Filmer
01 May 2022

In England, one in three adults has chronic pain lasting more than three months. In recent weeks Harley Street firm LVL Health had acquired authorisation to carry out a 'feasibility study' on 100 patients. The objective was to see if vaping 'full flower' cannabis may relieve chronic pain. LVL hoped that a 5,000-people trial would follow this. 

The move, however, has been rejected by an Oxford ethics panel that had concerns about the methodology used.

Supporters claim that prescriptions on the NHS could prevent people from self-medicating and are safer than opioid pain relief. However, there are concerns that widespread medicinal use could be used to soften criminal laws – as happened in the US. 

The panel questioned whether LVL would be able to recruit 5,000 patients or produce a reasonable comparison with a similar number of people being given traditional NHS drugs. LVL director Gregory Stoloff stated that their robust methods would produce top-quality results. Professor at Sheffield University and Pain expert Sam Ahmedzai noted that the trial's design leaves a lot desired.

He pointed out that if participants did not correctly match the NHS group, the results could be misleading. Because 80 per cent of the LVL participants would be contributing £300 a month for treatment, they may be more inclined to believe that the cannabis had positive results. He also pointed out that it would be pointless to offer a placebo. The psychoactive effects of the THC when vaping cannabis would make it obvious which group a patient was in.

But Mr Stoloff of LVL said that the company were experts at matching groups. While they could reduce the trial size, they had already exceeded 5,000 enquiries from wannabe participants.

Mr Stoloff reaffirmed that LVL had no interest – financial or otherwise – in recreational cannabis. The trial's high expense proved that LVL was not making any money from the cannabis.

Author Alex Berenson, an advocate against legalisation, said: 'The cannabis lobby followed a very clear playbook in the US – convince voters to approve the drug for medicinal use to create a quasi-legal industry. Then push for full legalisation.'



Liz Filmer