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March 09, 2019

UK first as specialist medical cannabis clinic opens in Manchester

UK first as specialist medical cannabis clinic opens in Manchester

Patients and clinicians have welcomed the opening of the UK’s first specialist medical cannabis clinic today as a vital step forward for people living with a range of chronic and debilitating conditions.

The pioneering new Medical Cannabis Clinic, for which consultant neurologist Professor Mike Barnes will serve as Clinical Director, is now open to patients at The Beeches Consulting Centre in Manchester. The clinic will be led by Dr David McDowell, an independent pain specialist. It follows the Home Office’s decision to reschedule medical cannabis in November, and is the first of a planned network of specialist clinics being opened by European Cannabis Holdings (ECH) around the UK.

Dr McDowell made history in December when he issued the first prescription for medical cannabis. He has since prescribed to Forzana Nasir, 32, an Open University student from south London, who suffers from the genetic condition Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which leaves her in severe pain and suffering from nausea and vomiting. Since taking medical cannabis, she has gone from taking 13 different medications a day to just three.  

Commenting on the new clinic, she said: “Having access to this medicine allows me to ease my chronic pain which turns an unbearable day into a manageable day. It has been life-changing for me – I was almost bedbound before this and now I have much greater quality of life. It is so important that other patients in the UK who are suffering can have the same opportunity. This clinic opening is a significant step forward for healthcare in this country.”

Hugh Thompson, Director of Fundraising and Communications at DEBRA[1] added: “We welcome the launch of the UK’s first medical cannabis clinic today. At DEBRA we are currently investing €177,200 in research to assess the safety and effectiveness of cannabinoid-based medicines as a potential treatment for the debilitating pain and itch caused by the genetic skin blistering condition Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), and improving quality-of-life for thousands of EB sufferers. The current treatment options for pain and itch relief for EB sufferers usually consists of opiates anti-inflammatories. These have a very limited effect and often come with distressing and debilitating side-effects. It is this research, and the launch of clinics like this, which are vital first steps towards making a much more effective form of pain relief widely available to people suffering from EB.”

The Manchester clinic will treat patients experiencing chronic pain, many of whom currently depend on powerful and highly addictive opioids. Despite the change in law, only four patients have successfully accessed this treatment via the NHS[2], meaning this will act as a lifeline to those who have thus far struggled to access this treatment.

The barriers to access, which include establishing exceptional clinical circumstances, exhausting all lawful alternatives, gaining agreement from an NHS Trust Medical Director, and engaging a specialist doctor to accept liability, mean that patients are generally unable to secure this treatment via the NHS. This new service will offer a framework under which patients can access the medication they need and alleviate avoidable suffering.

Clinics will then open in London across multiple disciplines including neurology and psychiatry in addition to chronic pain, on Harley Street, and in Birmingham later this spring.  They will specialise in innovative cannabis-based therapy and prescription cannabinoids, and be open following specialist referral to patients who have exhausted all existing treatment options, and where medical cannabis has been proven to deliver significant therapeutic benefit.

This includes potentially life-changing relief from chronic pain conditions including arthritis, fibromyalgia, nerve conditions, muscle cramps (spasticity); treating neurological conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease; and addressing psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Prof Barnes, who was responsible for obtaining the first medicinal cannabis licence for Alfie Dingley, is also one of the world’s foremost experts in medical cannabis whose 2016 report ‘Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use’ helped pave the way for legalisation of medical cannabis.

Commenting on the opening of the clinic, he said: “Patients suffering from chronic pain and other serious neurological or psychiatric conditions have been crying out for this kind of life-changing treatment. This clinic will represent a lifeline to those who have found other treatments ineffective. This also brings the UK into line with other countries when it comes to pain management. The hope is that over time patients all around the country and not just in Manchester will have access to the relief that they need.”

ECH, which set up The Medical Cannabis Clinics, is the group which earlier this month created a historic milestone by facilitating the import of the UK’s first bulk shipment of cannabis-based medicine since the Home Office decision.

ECH is committed to opening up the UK market to gain access to medical cannabis.  In addition to launching a network of specialist medical cannabis clinics and importing the first bulk shipment of cannabis-based medicine to the UK, ECH continues to support patients in need by providing key infrastructure, educational services and marketing support. These landmark moments for the UK’s fledgling medical cannabis industry will greatly improve access for patients.

Hannah Simon, ECH COO, added: “We are delighted to be supporting the establishment of the Medical Cannabis Clinics in the UK. The legalisation of prescription cannabis has given people with chronic illnesses hope; the next step is to ensure the availability of medical cannabis to offer those without other alternatives the treatment they need.”

ABOUT ECH

ECH is at the forefront of transforming treatment options for patients with chronic and debilitating conditions across the UK. Supported by a team of world-leading medical advisors, this unrivalled group of companies take a comprehensive approach to improving access to medical cannabis for eligible patients by providing key infrastructure and educational services. As the only online medical cannabis education platform, The Academy of Medical Cannabis seeks to improve responsible use of medical cannabis while European conference series, Cannabis Europa, provides a platform for both government and the medical community to discuss policy.

ECH’s wider portfolio of companies also includes market intelligence firm Prohibition Partners, and CBD brand house Amkeu. These holdings provide ECH with a fundamental anchor in the cannabis investment market, while helping it define this


[1] DEBRA is the national charity that supports individuals and families affected by Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB)

[2] The Times, Jorja Emerson, the first child prescribed cannabis, still can’t get access on the NHS, 9 December 2019. Available from: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/jorja-emerson-the-first-child-prescribed-cannabis-still-cant-get-access-on-the-nhs-hnrwksrwq

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