11 May An Appeal To Andrew Lansley Part 2
Dear Mr Lansley,
Today I received the email below from Eldon Gallagher of the Customer Service Centre at the Department of Health in reply to my email to you of 13th April 2011 (also reproduced below).
This is a quite dreadful response which completely fails to address the content of my email. In fact, it seems to have nothing to with the questions I asked at all. Has my email even been read?
This is simply unacceptable Mr Lansley. My email was very carefully considered and as the leader of Cannabis Law Reform, I represent the interests of a considerable body of opinion which is entitled to your proper attention.
This is an urgent matter which involves the unnecessary suffering of many thousands of British citizens. Medicinal cannabis also offers potential savings to the NHS of many millions on expensive and highly toxic pharmaceutical products. Sativex is a form of medicinal cannabis which has many disadvantages, not least its outrageous cost and its alcohol content. It is completely unsuitable for many patients and health authorities simply can’t afford it.
I would be grateful if you would take the time to read my original email and give me a proper response.
Dear Mr Reynolds,
Thank you for your email of 13 April to Andrew Lansley about the availability of cannabis-based pain relief medications, such as Sativex.
As you will appreciate, Mr Lansley is currently very busy, and I am afraid that he will not be able to commit to a meeting with you at present.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), an executive agency of the Department of Health, is responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices available in the UK work properly and are acceptably safe. Doctors must be confident about the products they prescribe and the MHRA will only grant a marketing authorisation (a licence) for any product once it is satisfied that it is safe, effective and of an acceptable quality for use in the UK.
The MHRA granted a marketing authorisation to the company GW Pharma Limited on 16 June for the medicinal product Sativex Oromucosal Spray. This is a prescription-only medicine used to improve symptoms relating to multiple sclerosis. More information on the assessment report for this product and the marketing authorisation is available on the MHRA’s website and can be accessed by entering ‘Sativex’ into the search bar and selecting the link dated 21 June 2010.
Although Sativex has been licensed for use in the indication outlined above, it can be prescribed to meet the special needs of individual patients outside of the licensed indication(s). Under the Medicines Legislation, doctors can prescribe a licensed medicine for another use but they do so entirely on their own responsibility and are fully liable for the patient’s welfare. The decision to prescribe a particular medicine is for the prescriber concerned.
In 2006, the Home Office issued a general licence allowing doctors to prescribe Sativex, pharmacies to dispense it, and patients to have it in their possession, without the requirement to be individually licensed by the Home Office.
People who feel that they would benefit from this medicine should contact their GP for advice and support in obtaining Sativex.
I hope this reply is helpful.
Customer Service Centre
Department of Health
—– Original Message —–
From: Peter Reynolds
To: [email protected]
Sent: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 1:54 PM
Subject: Medicinal Cannabis
Dear Mr Lansley,
I am writing to you about the urgent necessity to permit the prescribing of medicinal cannabis by doctors.
Please do not refer me to the Home Office. Its intransigent position on the subject amounts to a scandalous denial of science and cruel mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of British citizens. This is a health issue which requires your attention and care for those in pain and suffering.
There is now an overwhelming body of peer reviewed, published research that proves beyond doubt the efficacy of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of many conditions. Britain is becoming increasingly isolated as a place where patients are denied access to the medicine they need. Utterly absurd is that patients from the EU can bring medicinal cannabis into Britain under the protection of the Schengen Agreement but British residents risk prison for using exactly the same substance.
Every country in Europe except France and Britain now has some form of medicinal cannabis provision. 15 US states now permit medical marijuana on a doctor’s recommendation and Israel has a fast expanding programme. There are huge cost savings and benefits to be gained and enormous reductions in harm from side effects of poisonous pharmaceutical products.
There are already many instances in Britain where MS patients have been refused Sativex on cost grounds and so have been forced into illegal purchase or cultivation and have then been prosecuted as criminals. This is a shame and disgrace on our nation and I appeal to you to take steps to end it.
Perhaps you do not realise the transformational effect that medicinal cannabis can have on some people’s lives? Almost miraculous results are being achieved, particularly with MS, Crohn’s and fibromyalgia. People who would otherwise be trapped by pain and disability are able to lead productive lives with the help of medicinal cannabis.
Please Mr Lansley, will you arrange to meet me and a delegation of people whose lives are literally saved by the use of medicinal cannabis? This cruel and demeaning policy cannot be allowed to continue in the face of overwhelming evidence. Safe, high quality, standardised dose cannabis is now available from Bedrocan in Holland, the Dutch government’s supplier and is exported all over Europe to fill doctors’ prescriptions. How much longer must British citizens wait?
Co-ordinated action is already underway for dozens of patients to take the Home Office to judicial review for its refusal to grant import licenses for Bedrocan. This is at huge cost in public money and people’s lives. You could take steps to end this suffering now. You could enable the NHS to start making huge cost savings immediately. This issue is not going away.
CLEAR is a new team of committed professionals that is determined to bring this issue to the top of the political agenda. Please arrange to meet me and learn at first hand how much good you could do by a change of policy that is, in any case, inevitable. Don’t make those people in pain and suffering wait any longer.
I look forward to hearing from you.