Alfie Dingley’s mother says cannabis oil ‘radically’ helped him
Around 41 families who source their legal cannabis oil in the Netherlands are worried about disruption to prescriptions, but British innovation is ready to save the day. Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK to treat certain conditions two and a half years ago, giving a lifeline to parents of children suffering from severe epilepsy. Children like Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell were suffering from hundreds of seizures a week, each of which could have ended up being fatal, but are now thriving seizure-free with the help of cannabis oil.
However, most families have to source this privately as the NHS is providing less than 10 percent of the total cannabis-based prescriptions in the UK.
Many have been using a company called Bedrocan in the Netherlands, so the end of the transition period meant families were once again uncertain about the future of their child’s access to cannabis oil.
No longer can UK prescriptions be fulfilled by pharmacies in the EU, cutting off their supply to the life-saving medicine.
Not only can families not go to the Netherlands to fulfil prescriptions anymore, the finished products cannot be imported directly to the UK because the pharmacy supplying the cannabis oil is not GMP-certified.
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Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK two and a half years ago
GMP, which stands for Good Manufacturing Practices, is an EU stamp of approval that the company complies with international standards and is required for importing and exporting.
On January 21, Alfie Dingley’s mother Hannah Deacon received a letter from the Department of Health & Social Care informing her that the Dutch government had agreed to a six-month grace period.
They will allow the supply of Bedrocan oils against UK prescriptions for existing patients up until July 1.
While this was a huge relief for Ms Deacon and numerous other families in the same situation, this is not a permanent solution.
Alfie Dingley with his parents Hannah Deacon and Drew Dingley
However, in a win for British self-sufficiency, medical cannabis distributor Grow Pharma are legally importing the same cannabis flower used in Bedrocan products to manufacture the oil here in the UK.
The company’s partner IPS Pharma will produce the cannabis oils in their GMP-certified production facility in Surrey.
This week they trialled the first UK extraction of a cannabis-based medicinal product in a licensed facility other than GW Pharmaceuticals in an effort to replicate the products patients have been getting from the Netherlands.
CEO of Grow Pharma Pierre van Weperen told Express.co.uk: “Although it has been announced that a temporary solution has been found and companies are working on a longer term solution which may take months, a post-Brexit, sustainable and UK-based solution is needed and we are ready to step up to help.”
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Photographs from the trial extraction this week
He added that when prescriptions come in, initial samples will be given free of charge and that actual cost moving forward will be much cheaper than what parents were getting on the continent.
Grow Pharma and IPS Pharma have all the necessary licenses to import the raw materials and produce these medicines.
What’s more, they are actually GMP-certified, so patients will be able to use products held to an internationally recognised standard, and patients can expect to pay a whopping half of what they paid before.
Mr van Weperen added: “A sustainable UK solution for these children is needed urgently and we are ready to step up to help, benefiting from extraction and processing expertise developed over three years of research and development by Grow’s R&D arm Grow Biotech and now put together with the manufacturing experience in IPS Pharma.
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“When prescriptions come in, initial samples will be made available free of charge and the actual cost moving forward will be significantly less than parents are used to paying.”
Ashok Patel, a pharmacist at IPS Pharma said: “We will be using the exact same starting materials these patients are used to.
“From a scientific standpoint there is no reason why the end result would differ significantly beyond any fluctuations that may have arisen already within the current production process.”
The company hopes this will ensure the children who have been taking oils based on Bedrocan strains will be able to continue treatment without having to switch to an alternative solution.
Mr Van Weperen said: “Grow Pharma is taking the lead to help the families of the 40 UK children who may face a disruption in the medicinal cannabis supply.
“We are ready to help these children and their parents.
“This is an opportunity to establish a UK-based solution that can produce cannabis-based medicinal products to the highest possible standards.”