Society & Drug Science call for UK paediatricians to recognise the value of medical cannabis for childhood epilepsy – response to latest BPNA guidanceDecember 3, 2021 | IN NEWS | BY MCCS
The BPNA recently produced new guidance on the prescription of cannabis medicines for children with epilepsy. However, the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (UKMCCS) and Drug Science fundamentally disagree with this guidance. Expert clinicians from both organisations have produced a critique to provide commentary, evidence and further crucial information.
In the BPNA’s guidance, there is no recognition that the children in question have uncontrolled, drug-resistant epilepsy. They have a poor quality of life, often difficulties in school, in play and at home, and the whole family suffer from the consequences. In their commentary, the Society and Drug Science point out that recurrent seizures damage the developing brain and such severe seizures are associated with a risk of status epilepticus and death. The Society and Drug Science believe that clinicians must explore every avenue in an attempt to alleviate the seizures.
NICE guidance is now supportive of continuing prescription for those already on a cannabis product but sadly the BPNA will not change its stance on the subject. As a result, there are now only two prescribers, one of whom is retiring and neither of whom are taking on new patients.
This means over 50 children currently accessing their prescribed cannabis-based medicines are relying on just one doctor for continuing access to the only treatments that have kept them well and reduced hospital and ITU admissions. And, with no new children currently able to access a prescription, seriously ill children are at real risk of imminent harm.
Professor Mike Barnes, Chair of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society said:
“Professor Helen Cross was the first clinician to prescribe an unlicensed cannabis-based medicine for childhood epilepsy in 2013. That was a brave and correct move when a child was in extremis. It is a pity that the BPNA’s current executive committee members have reverted to an old and outdated paradigm of efficacy to the clear detriment of many thousands of children in the UK. The Society will teach any paediatric doctor – free of charge – how to prescribe medical cannabis products and provide ongoing mentoring and support.
We call for recognition of the value of unlicensed cannabis-based medicinal products by sensible and caring paediatricians in the UK.”
All medical practitioners, and in particular the BPNA executive committee, should note the General Medical Council “Good Medical Practice” principles. We specifically draw attention to these points:
- Make the care of your patient your first concern
- Treat patients as individuals and respect their dignity.
- Work in partnership with patients. Listen to, and respond to, their concerns and preferences.
- Give patients the information they want or need in a way they can understand.
- Respect patients’ right to reach decisions with you about their treatment and care.
- Support patients in caring for themselves to improve and maintain their health.
- Work with colleagues in the ways that best serve patients’ interests.
- Never discriminate unfairly against patients or colleagues.
- Remember you are personally accountable for your professional practice.
David Badcock, Chief Executive Officer of Drug Science said:
“Our research into childhood intractable epilepsy clearly and consistently shows that the benefits of whole-plant medical cannabis far outweigh any associated risks.
The parents we have spoken to, as part of this work, find medical cannabis to be the most effective treatment for their child’s condition. Yet the BPNA appear to have ignored our evidence and these experiences. Instead, they seem to be wilfully denying access to legal medicines, and causing needless distress for families who deserve better.”
The Society and Drug Science call for recognition of the value of cannabis based medicinal products by sensible and caring paediatricians in the UK.
How to read the document
The original wording from the BPNA is retained in black. Our comments and additions are highlighted in green.
Free training and support for paediatricians
The Society will teach any paediatric doctor – free of charge – how to prescribe medical cannabis products and provide ongoing mentoring and support.
Please contact us to learn more.