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Clinical trials on cannabis to treat epilepsy to finally begin in the UK

The UK Department of Health and Social Care has finally decided to launch clinical trials to study the effects of medical cannabis in the treatment of epilepsy, particularly in children. After a long standstill and thanks to the National Institute for Health Research, which will oversee the studies, the decision was taken and then made public by Maria Caulfield, the UK Health Minister.

A large-scale clinical trial process with two randomised studies

While cannabis for medicinal use has been permitted in Europe for many years now, UK legislation had in turn relaxed slightly in November 2018 to allow its use. However, treatments based on the substance are only prescribed as a last resort by the NHS and few people are likely to get a prescription for it in England.

Furthermore, the Independent magazine revealed that the use of medical cannabis therapies is currently at a standstill due to "a lack of compelling evidence to support the use of medical cannabis", according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), whose role is to decide which products can be funded by the NHS.

However, the families of people suffering from epilepsy or diseases such as multiple sclerosis etc., are calling for treatment with the plant in question, in view of its high efficacy but also its lower side-effects, as proven by the case of Alexis Bortel, in the United States, who lived 2528 days without seizures.

Implementation details being finalised

The UK government, which has committed to future controlled clinical trials, has not yet given details of the studies that will be conducted. Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine says that "people have been waiting too long for treatment" and that "families across the UK are desperately waiting for these medical cannabis trials to start." The huge impact that such treatments could have on people's health and lives has convinced them. She has already introduced a private member's bill to legalise medical cannabis.

She added that it is expected that trials will start soon in order to be able to roll out treatments as soon as possible.

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