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Cannabis, NICE and Arrogance-Cancer Survivorship

Recently the media was full of stories saying that medical cannabis was to be available on the NHS to help control pain.  Yet so far it seems only two patients had managed to get a prescription.  Friends have to pay to get this, but why?

Interviewing Andrew Lansley when he was Health Minister, he epitomised the arrogance in-built in the NHS, that says NO.  Bowel Cancer had asked why screening age for this condition couldn’t be lowered, in line with European guidance. “It’s not the NHS way” Lansley sneered.  Pity he didn’t listen – his cancer would probably have been caught before it reached Stage 3. You will be glad to hear he has now called on the government to improve the NHS’s current screening programme.  Talk about shutting stable doors!

NICE, unlike its counterpart in other countries, seems to work at the speed of a snail.  Over a year ago, Cannabis in certain forms was approved for NHS;  but NICE is dragging its heels, saying there is not enough evidence it works; it seems only two patients have been able to obtain this on prescription.  Of course, NICE could call for reams of evidence from other country’s research, but ……

Years ago, at the annual All Party Parliamentary Group conference on cancer, Lord Darzi asked “Can anyone tell me, what good is NICE?”.  Good question, and there still seems no answer.

Watching Victoria Derbyshire on TV this morning, there was a debate on medicinal cannabis;  one very articulate patient advocate v. NICE employee.  The advocate put up lucid, intelligent and factual information – answered by the NICE employee with typical political fudging.  How she didn’t throw something at him I don’t know – I would!

Cannabis has been legally available in the UK since November 2018: Medical cannabis containing THC (the compound in cannabis that gets you high) can be prescribed for a limited number of conditions on the NHS. The medication is different to the cannabis-derived CBD “wellness” products available in shops, which experts warn typically contain very low concentrations of CBD and mainly lead to a “placebo response”.

NHS England has said some clinicians “do not have the specialist professional education needed to make fully informed prescribing decisions in cases where[medical cannabis] may be appropriate.”  Having 14 conditions myself, I know doctors can prescribe me the wrong medicine, so this is not reassuring. Are patients considered so stupid we can’t find a knowledgeable practitioner?

Reading all the numerous articles about cannabis currently available on the web, I can’t help feeling that the boffins at NICE can’t tell the difference between Medical Cannabis, and the commercial products available containing cannabis-derived CBD.

Years ago I sat on a Dept. Health committee looking into cancer care and lack of medicines.  I have never met such a horrible collection of cold-hearted people as their reps that sit on drug approval committees.  Money is their sole raison d’être; The government said it sympathised with families “dealing so courageously with challenging conditions”. So how can they approve medical cannabis, then only allow two patients to benefit?

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