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Medicines regulation and law

Medical cannabis should not face usual regulatory checks, says former health minister

Norman Lamb

Source: WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Sir Norman Lamb was minister of state for care and support in the then Department of Health between 2012 and 2015

Medical cannabis products should not be subject to the usual regulatory checks before patients can use them, as cannabis is “the oldest medicine of all”, Sir Norman Lamb has said.

During a panel discussion at the Cannabis Europa conference in London on 25 June 2019, Sir Norman, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk and chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, said the current system for supplying medical cannabis in the UK “simply hasn’t worked”, with doctors reluctant to prescribe unlicensed products.

He added that it was much more difficult to perform clinical trials on a plant, meaning that medical cannabis products should have a lower bar for regulatory approval.

“To expect to make cannabis products available through the NHS only after the route of clinical trials; we will be waiting years,” he said.

“That means more patients taking opiates, more addicted and more will die. If we can get access now it will give a lot of relief to a lot of people.”

He was supported by Crispin Blunt, Conservative Party MP for Reigate, Surrey, who told the conference: “It is going to defeat our regulatory system if we try and drive it through the system as it is now. My instinct is that we will need a specialist cannabis authority as they have in Germany.”

But Sue Mountstevens, police and crime commissioner for Avon and Somerset, who also spoke at the event, said the move would be “muddying the waters at our peril”.

Official figures show only three NHS prescriptions for medical cannabis were dispensed for use in primary care over January and February 2019. 

The law was changed to allow medical cannabis to be prescribed on 1 November 2018.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206719

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