Cannabis medicine gets green light in UK but costs patients $32,500 a year per patient and UK Prime Minister’s husband is the largest investor.
Specialist doctors in the UK will be able to legally prescribe cannabis-derived medicinal products by autumn, the home secretary has announced in one of the biggest changes to drugs laws in years.
GW Pharmaceuticals, a company whose largest investor is UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s husband, Philip May, has received FDA approval for Epidiolex, a new cannabis derived drug to treat childhood epilepsy. The announcement comes just days after the Home Office relaxed the UK’s strictly controlled ban on the medication for two children suffering from related conditions.
GW Pharmaceuticals said it plans to charge about $32,500 per patient annually for its new treatment for rare forms of epilepsy, the first prescription drug derived from the marijuana plant.
The retail price of the drug is high, but GW said costs were in line with other brand-name antiepileptic drugs used to treat the same intractable conditions. With insurance, out-of-pocket costs per month could range from $5 to $200 a month, GW executives said.
Until now, cannabis has been considered a Schedule 1 substance, a legal classification that means the plant can be used by researchers with a license, but is not thought to have any therapeutic value. Yesterday’s announcement indicates that cannabis-derived products intended for medicinal use will now be classified as Schedule 2, allowing them to be prescribed directly to patients by specialist physicians.
The timeline for the cannabis medication’s production and approval raise serious questions about whether the government has been involved in insider dealing, which is illegal in the UK:
2016 – Theresa May wins the general election
May’s husband owns the majority share in the world’s largest producer of cannabis, GW Pharmaceuticals
2017 – Victoria Atkins Becomes Parliamentary Under Secretary – despite almost no government experience
Atkins’ husband owns British Sugar – The company that produces the main ingredient GW uses for its cannabis medication
2018 – Atkins Is Promoted To Home Office Minister
June 2018 – The Home Office seize cannabis medication from a child at the airport, and then return it after the press are alerted to the story
16 June 2018 – The Home Office starts to make exceptions for children who need cannabis oil to treat epilepsy
25 June 2018 – GW Pharmaceuticals announces the FDA has approved cannabis medication it has made, to treat childhood epilepsy.
The cannabis medication is now being reviewed by a European body, whilst the government considers making cannabis medication legal in the UK.
Early 2019 – GW Pharmaceuticals finds out if their cannabis medication has been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA)
UK Parliament has made clear that Thursday’s announcement “does not pave the way towards legalising cannabis for recreational use” but it’s a step in the right direction.
Does this open the doors for the full legalisation of weed?