07 Apr The Desperate Rearguard Action the British Medical Establishment is Fighting Against Cannabis
This Arrogant Man Must Face Tough Questions About his Stance on
Cannabis, his Financial Interests and his Breathtaking Hypocrisy.
Professor Finbar O’Callaghan introduced himself at the recent oral evidence session of the Health and Social Care Committee in these terms:
“My name is Professor Finbar O’Callaghan and I am here as president of the British Paediatric Neurology Association which is the association which represents all paediatric neurologists in the UK. I’m also a consultant paediatric neurologist at Great Ormond Street, an epileptologist and professor of paediatric neuroscience at UCL. I have a particular interest in epidemiology and clinical trials and in particular running clinical trials in childhood epilepsy.”
It’s hardly surprising then that in such a pre-eminent position, his opinion on the use of medical cannabis in paediatric epilepsy is regarded as if it had the force of law amongst doctors. But I point you to his final sentence and his declared adherence to the doctrine and close involvement in the multi-million pound industry of clinical trials.
Note that Professor O’Callaghan is now becoming the medical establishment’s poster boy in opposing the prescription of cannabis as medicine. He is now disparaging its use for fibromyalgia in adults, something he is no more qualified about than a junior medical student.
Clinical trials cost tens of millions of pounds (at least) and their primary purpose, at which they do not always succeed, is to ensure the safety of experimental medicines, usually single molecule drugs, synthesised in a laboratory, which may be highly toxic. All such trials are financed by the pharmaceutical industry with the intention of gaining a licence (known as a marketing authorisation) to enable them to sell their medicines at what are invariably huge prices. The businesses and people involved in the clinical trials process earn vast amounts of money and have a vested interest in ensuring that the regulation of all medicines follows this route.
All clinical trials are conducted under the auspices of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), a government agency which is directed, managed and staffed almost exclusively by people who used to work in the pharmaceutical industry. They all continue to benefit financially from the self-reinforcing, self-regulating and self-serving medical establishment which is built on the pharmaceutical industry and its invention of clinical trials.
Clinical trials are the medical establishment’s ‘kool aid’. They are a panacea for doctors’ ethical and clinical decision making. If anything goes wrong, even the most horrendous, catastrophic results, if a doctor has prescribed a medicine which has been through the clinical trials procedure, they can wash their hands, disavow any responsibility and move on to their next ‘doctoring-by-numbers’ appointment. Increasingly, doctors make very few real decisions. Their actions are all pre-determined by protocols and drugs created and approved by the medical establishment.
So cannabis really doesn’t fit into this system and for Professor O’Callaghan unless any medicine goes through a clinical trial in the specialty which he behaves as if he owns – childhood eplipesy, it will never be good enough to get his endorsement and will therefore be shut out of normal practice and very difficult if not impossible for patients to access. It is, in fact, a ‘stitch-up’. A term the Professor will understand as he advocates slicing into a child’s brain in a surgical procedure before trying whole plant cannabis as a medicine.
Note that cannabis is not an experimental medicine, nor a single molecule drug, synthesised in a laboratory, nor is it highly toxic. It consists of around 500 molecules, is synthesised in a plant and has been in widespread use, we know beyond doubt, for at least 10,000 years. Currently it is in regular use by 250,000,000 people worldwide as a recreational substance. In modern times it has been in use as a medicine in Israel since the early 1990s, California since 1996, in Canada and the Netherlands since 2001. There is no evidence of any significant problems or side effects at a population level, none whatsoever where it is used as a medicine under medical supervision. The only evidence of any significant negative effects is where it is used in extremely potent form as a recreational substance by children and even then the numbers involved are tiny.
This is why in every jurisdiction throughout the world where cannabis for medical use is legally permitted, it is through a special system outside pharmaceutical medicines regulation. Every other government that has recognised the enormous benefit that it offers has come to the same conclusion: cannabis is a special case. It is much, much safer than pharmaceutical products. We need an ‘Office of Medicinal Cannabis’ as there is in the Netherlands, or ‘Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations’ as administered by Health Canada. Colorado has its ‘Medical Marijuana Registry Program’ and other US states have similar arrangements. Israel’s Ministry of Health has its ‘Medical Cannabis Unit’. In Australia, its equivalent of the MHRA, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, has established its own set of medical cannabis regulations.
None of this fits into Professor O’Callaghan’s model. His career and his income is founded on clinical trials and specifically in childhood epilepsy, regardless of the facts of actual experience in thousands of patients, he is going to do everything he can to prevent its use except on his terms. He has a glaring and outrageous conflict of interest and the failure of any other doctor to point this out simply demonstrates how powerful is the medical establishment and its mafia-like control of our healthcare system.
In his written submission to the Health and Social Care Committee, O’Callaghan had the audacity to attack Professor Mike Barnes, based on a scurrilous article in the tabloid Mail on Sunday, for his “significant financial interests in the cannabis industry”. He also attacks everyone else who has any knowledge or experience in the area, denigrating them as “experts” (in inverted commas). O’Callaghan’s hypocrisy is breathtaking and it is time the sycophantic, uncritical reporting of his opinions was highlighted. I have no doubt that he is an “expert” but he is not the only one and there are paediatric neurologists in Canada, the Netherlands and elsewhere whose knowledge and experience of prescribing cannabis vastly exceeds his own. He needs taking down a peg or two in the interests of children – and now adults – whose care he is interfering with.
Cannabis as medicine has never gone away, despite the best efforts of vested interests and the medical establishment to kill it off. After almost a century of being demonised by governments, the media and every quack on a mission, whether qualified or not, it is here to stay. This doctrine of pharmaceutical drugs, clinical trials and ruthless suppression of empirical knowledge has only been around for that same 100 years. Modern, reductionist medicine has great deal to offer but so does the wisdom of ages and the plants that have long helped us cure, heal and maintain our health. They can co-exist and we must put aside arrogance and self-interest in order best to serve the people.