Britain’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has told MPs that medical cannabis will no longer need to be tested via randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in the UK in order to be licensed.
Medical cannabis products will now be able to be licensed if evidence for their efficacy for certain medical conditions already exists. For example, a product will be able to be licensed for treating Autism if another country has already conducted a successful RCT.
This measure should help speed up the currently lengthy process it takes to license a medical cannabis product in the UK, helping widen access to medical cannabis for those suffering from a medical condition currently not on the qualifying list, such as childhood epilepsy and MS.
There have been concerns raised by MPs that the current process for licensing medical cannabis products takes too much time for those who need immediate access to medical cannabis.
In June 2019, during a panel discussion at the Cannabis Europa conference in London, former health secretary Sir Norman Lamb warned that “we will be waiting years” if medical cannabis was available “only after the route of clinical trials.”
Hancock’s announcement contradicts Dame Sally Davies, the outgoing chief medical officer for England, who told MPs in March 2019 that medical cannabis products would only be licensed if they passed RCTs conducted in the UK.
“…the licensing process takes into account global evidence. You don’t have to have trials in this country.”
– Matt Hancock MP, Britain’s Health Secretary
Hancock was questioned by MPs following his announcement, who asked whether the licensing process will indeed need RCTs.
Hancock replied that if evidence already exists from other countries, the UK would take those into account, rather than dismiss them:
“Well, no, because the licensing process takes into account global evidence. You don’t have to have trials in this country.
“I’ve put in place a processes review to make sure the process of getting the drug to the people who need it goes as well as possible.”
The announcement is expected to spark a reaction of relief and joy among patients in the UK who are unable to attain a prescription for medical cannabis due to their condition not being included in the so-far limited qualifying list.