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Business & Profession Legislation & policy, Education, Profession, Pharmaceutical

Cannabis Conversations

The medical cannabis landscape is changing fast. And there are few people who can fully understand the ramifications of shifting policy – be it complete legalization, limited access or absolute prohibition. How will these three approaches play out against a backdrop of growing demand?

Stories in the press cover everything from barriers to access (“A mother’s fight to get medical cannabis for her son” – FT) to squabbles over the role of celebrities in the ongoing debate (“Longtime medicinal cannabis advocate warns Pete Evans involvement invites ‘controversy’” – News.com.au). The upshot? The seemingly interchangeable terms “medical cannabis” and “medicinal cannabis” are increasingly entering the public consciousness, fueling curiosity. Patients are looking for (the right) answers.

The medical cannabis landscape is changing fast. And there are few people who can fully understand the ramifications of shifting policy – be it complete legalization, limited access or absolute prohibition. How will these three approaches play out against a backdrop of growing demand?

Stories in the press cover everything from barriers to access (“A mother’s fight to get medical cannabis for her son” – FT) to squabbles over the role of celebrities in the ongoing debate (“Longtime medicinal cannabis advocate warns Pete Evans involvement invites ‘controversy’” – News.com.au). The upshot? The seemingly interchangeable terms “medical cannabis” and “medicinal cannabis” are increasingly entering the public consciousness, fueling curiosity. Patients are looking for (the right) answers.

The reality is that, after such a lengthy spell of limited-to-no research, the scientific community has got some serious catching up to do – especially when it comes to “whole-plant” extracts and any entourage effects.

Those working in the pharmaceutical industry are well aware of the typically long, sometimes painful and always costly road to approved medicines. Despite the risk, GW Pharmaceuticals has put all its eggs in the cannabinoid basket. And it has seen success; the FDA approval of Epidiolex (CBD) in 2018 being one example.

The FDA press release for its first cannabis-derived drug approval makes for interesting reading, with Commissioner Scott Gottlieb praising the trusted route: “Controlled clinical trials testing the safety and efficacy of a drug, along with careful review through the FDA’s drug approval process, is the most appropriate way to bring marijuana-derived treatments to patients.”

But we covered Pharma’s “takeover” in the last issue. What about the rest of the medical cannabis industry? How do we apply both good science and common sense in a field where the heterogeneity of plant products – and human beings – may result in an almost miraculous treatment for one patient and zero effect in another?

As we navigate the myriad complexities – scientific, clinical, ethical, political, legal, societal – we must come together to discuss the impact of scientific discoveries, learn from clinical trial results, consider unmet need from a medical practitioner’s perspective, and allow patients to share their experiences (both negative and positive). There’s a lot to talk about – and we all need to be honest and open in those medical cannabis conversations.

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About the Author
Rich Whitworth

Rich Whitworth completed his studies in medical biochemistry at the University of Leicester, UK, in 1998. To cut a long story short, he escaped to Tokyo to spend five years working for the largest English language publisher in Japan. “Carving out a career in the megalopolis that is Tokyo changed my outlook forever. When seeing life through such a kaleidoscopic lens, it's hard not to get truly caught up in the moment.” On returning to the UK, after a few false starts with grey, corporate publishers, Rich was snapped up by Texere Publishing, where he spearheaded the editorial development of The Analytical Scientist. “I feel honored to be part of the close-knit team that forged The Analytical Scientist – we've created a very fresh and forward-thinking publication.” Rich is now Content Director of Texere Publishing, the company behind The Analytical Scientist.

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