Cookie policy: This site uses cookies (small files stored on your computer) to simplify and improve your experience of this website. Cookies are small text files stored on the device you are using to access this website. For more information please take a look at our terms and conditions. Some parts of the site may not work properly if you choose not to accept cookies.

Join

Subscribe or Register

Existing user? Login

Controlled drugs

Pharmaceutical industry must fund clinical trials of medical cannabis, Royal College of Psychiatrists says

Although people with psychosis, social anxiety disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder could potentially benefit from medical cannabis, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has said, the current evidence was “in need of improvement”.

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Source: PjrTravel / Alamy Stock Photo

Without evidence from randomised controlled trials, prescribing of cannabis-based medicinal products in the UK will remain low, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has said

There is a “pressing need” for high quality research into the use of cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) for psychiatric disorders, the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) has said.

In a position statement published on 19 November 2019, the RCPsych said that many pharmaceutical companies were “not keen” to invest in randomised controlled trials (RCTs). But without evidence from these “gold standard” trials, it argues, prescribing of CBPMs in the UK will remain low.

The College said that observational data on the efficacy of CBPMs could show “significantly higher effectiveness — sometimes by order of magnitude” when compared to data from RCTs, but added that it still believes that RCTs “are necessary and will play an important role in establishing an evidence base”. It added that the government and patient groups could put pressure on pharmaceutical companies to commision this research. 

The statement echoes views expressed by Dame Sally Davies, former chief medical officer for England, who told MPs earlier in 2019 that it was “time that the industry started to say what it’s going to do about funding trials to get the [CBMP] licences so patients can have access. This can’t be just left to the public sector”. 

Psychosis, social anxiety disorders, post traumatic stress disorder and “achieving abstinence in the use of addictive substances” were examples of conditions for which CBPMs may offer benefit, the RCPsych said, but warned that the current evidence was “sparse and in need of improvement”.

Tetrahydrocannabidol (THC), it said, has propsychotic and anxiogenic properties, and so “it seems highly unlikely that future research will find major psychiatric indications for THC-containing preparations”.

Cannabidiol is “by far the most promising cannabis component” for treatment of psychiatric disorders.

Adrian James, registrar of the RCPsych, said that while there is “a paucity of high quality evidence supporting the use of CBMPs for any medical indication”, evidence supporting their use in psychiatric disorders is “particularly scarce”.

“We welcome evidence of the potential benefits of CBMPs, but caution that most of it comes from small-scale studies and the low rate of use worldwide means that the side effect and risk profile is not adequately evidenced,” he added.

“To correct this, and gather the evidence that patients and clinicians need and deserve, key organisations must act to reduce the barriers that exist to this research.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20207373

Have your say

For commenting, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will have the ability to comment.

Recommended from Pharmaceutical Press

Search an extensive range of the world’s most trusted resources

Powered by MedicinesComplete
  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

Newsletter Sign-up

Want to keep up with the latest news, comment and CPD articles in pharmacy and science? Subscribe to our free alerts.