Two organisations have been set up in Britain to educate doctors about cannabis medicine, with Professor Mike Barnes playing a leading role in both – the Academy of Medical Cannabis (AMC) and the UK Medicinal Cannabis Clinicians’ Society (UKMCCS).
Barnes has been a been a virtual lone voice of authority and pro-reform among neurologists in the British media, consistently refuting claims from the likes of the Royal College of Physicians that there is not enough evidence to prescribe cannabis medicine widely.
Barnes has ensured seven-year Alfie Dingley, who has epilepsy, continues to receive cannabis medicine after his licence was revoked, and has come out in favour of prescribing medical cannabis for autism, saying quite sensibly that clinical trials are required: “If we say the evidence for autism isn’t strong enough, well how are you going to get it stronger? The only way to get it stronger is to prescribe it and monitor what happens.”
The AMC and UKMCCS both provide doctors with online training and information about cannabis medicine in a bid to encourage specialist doctors to prescribe it in the face of discouraging and strict official guidelines.
Barnes is the author and Director of Education of AMC, which “operates to educate a global footprint of medical professionals” and is “dedicated to educating doctors on the subject of medicinal cannabis, aligning content on the regulatory structure of the individual countries that we operate within”. Edmund Bonikowski, a medicinal cannabis expert and specialist lecturer, who has held acute and community based NHS posts in neurological rehabilitation, is also involved.
The AMC recently released this trailer:
The UKMCCS launched this month. On its website Barnes says: “The properties and effects of medical cannabis are understandably little known about in the UK. It was never taught at University and as an illegal drug there has been no reason for our profession to learn about its medicinal properties. As a result, the overwhelming majority of doctors would, quite rightly, not prescribe it and indeed should not prescribe it without some understanding of its properties, side effects, dosage and its interactions.
“Recent high-profile campaigns, especially EndOurPain.org, have led the government to announce the re-scheduling of cannabis which opens the door to it becoming available on prescription. That’s why I am taking a lead role in the formation of a new Society which will be a forum for the exchange of knowledge and best practice in this field. I urge those doctors and other medical professionals with an interest in this fascinating subject to come together, to learn from each other, to understand medical cannabis.”
At the launch event at the Royal Air Force Club on 5 November, Hannah Deacon, Alfie Dingley’s mother and End Our Pain campaigner, told an audience of 100 clinicians that “doctors are failing their patients”:
“You have the power to turn their sadness and pain into joy. The first responsibility of any doctor is the care of their patient, this is enshrined in the medical oath and this means having an open-mind to treatments such as cannabis.
“But doctors are allowing their prejudice towards cannabis to cloud their judgement and they are failing to to take account of the numerous empirically-based studies which show that cannabis works.”
She recalled how many of the families she works with, under the umbrella organisation End Our Pain, have run into countless difficulties with the medical professions.
“Consultants have threatened families with social services, whilst supportive consultants have been told by their Trust boards that they would end their career if they supported an application for a cannabis licence.
“Others have been told; ‘It’s a fad, it will pass’ and this is so sad for the families. I urge you to find out more about medical cannabis for the benefit of your patients.”
Barnes has that said one of the first tasks of the UKMCCS will be to push for changes to what he called the “silly” prescribing guidelines before the full guidance is published by NICE (The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) next October.
The AMC provides a series of free educational modules on its website
The Rt Hon Sir Mike Penning MP told the event that on this occasion the UK politicians “had got it right” in relation to the changes but said they had been let down by their Royal College of Physicians who had drafted the interim guidelines. “They don’t like being told what to do,” he said.
Jon Liebling of the United Patients Alliance reported on its new research of 1,750 patients which showed that over 70% of medical cannabis users did not suffer from any side effects after taking the drug, while Canadian medic Dr Christopher Blue said his rule-of-thumb for prescribing medical cannabis was to recommend THC for muscle conditions, CBD for anti-inflammatory issues and a one-to-one ratio of each for cancer.
Mr Nadler of the AMC expanded on the launch of its online e-learning resource, saying it was available free of charge to the whole UK medical profession: “We welcome the change in the UK law on medical cannabis but our experience shows that the Government is lacking the expertise required to ensure this change happens to the benefit of the patient. This online resource can play a vital role in ensuring our clinicians, doctors and nurses are up-to-date on medical cannabis. Every doctor should learn the basics.”