Here, we talk to Professor Trevor Jones at the European Medical Cannabis Association (EUMCA) about storing CBD, clinical trials post-Brexit and the UK-US trade deal
What does the EUMCA think of available CBD products?
“I would hope that most people would expect that when they store a medicinal cannabis product in their home, wherever location that may be, that when they actually take this medicine, or nutritional supplement, it still contains the amount that was in the product when it was made. In other words, its shelf life is okay – it is stable.
“Even if there is a product that is analysed properly, that you know how to store it and it is going to be the right potency when you take it – how much of it gets into the body? Otherwise, you’re fooling yourself with a placebo. I think it is important that we get more people to do more studies, to see if these formulations are giving the genuine dose to the patient.”
With the EUMCA, you speak about the importance of clinical trials. How do you perceive a UK-Europe research relationship post-Brexit?
“Britain for decades now has had a leadership position in life science research, in the form of big companies like AstraZeneca, GSK and big research laboratories here. Centres of excellence, like the Wellcome Genome Campus, like the Crick Institute now in London. The Government initiative view of creating these centres around Britain on stem cells or whatever. Non-European scientists seem to be the driving force of a lot of European life science activity.
Non-European scientists seem to be driving force of European life science activity, says EUMCA
“What I understand is that there is a desire to maintain those European partnerships by the British government and a number of foreign governments to do more collaboration. I would hope that we could agree that where partnerships have been effective, they continue to flourish and grow.
“The second thing I think would be that the movement of scientists is really critical, you’ve seen about workers generally. We rely on good scientists from wherever to advance our science. Having barriers to their ability to move across the borders is a real problem. I think those discussions are ongoing. It seems to me the new government have got some views about how they’d do that.
“The third thing, very importantly, is the access to imports and exports. Most of the medicines we have in the UK are not made here, they’re made abroad. It is really important that the borders allow us to do that in a very easy way. Finally, we were fortunate to attract the regulatory agency, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), to be situated in London. Rather than having each individual government to approve a medicine, there’s a single, central approval.
“Now the danger is that after Brexit, Britain will have a different regulatory agency than the European one. That seems to me, a retrograde, negative step. It is inefficient. The recognition of the EMA as still the central way of approving medicine would be important going forward, so we don’t have to duplicate that effort going forward.”
We’ve got a lot of trade deal talk ongoing, especially between the UK and US. How possible is a pharmaceutical price increase if we enact a bad deal with the US?
“I’ve been appalled by the kind of debate that has gone on in this area. That somehow, the US, would change the pricing structure of medicines in the UK. I don’t understand that at all. You have to divide this debate into two: Products that are within patent or exclusively on the market, where there’s no generic equivalent. And the bulk of pharmaceuticals which are generic, made in China, India, Ireland or somewhere else.
“There is no doubt in my mind that in the USA, generic products are priced much higher than they need to be by comparison with anywhere else in the world, like Germany. We can buy our products from anywhere in the world now and will continue to do that. The American price will be irrelevant for a generic product. The issue exists for companies like Novartis in Switzerland, Merck in America, Nordisk in Denmark – why would the policies in America affect the prices in the UK? The argument I read, is that maybe US based companies [e.g. Pfizer], would be trying to charge prices in Britain that are equivalent to those in America.
“Well, we wouldn’t do it. NICE would say no and you would have to come to a deal, which is what the NHS are allowed to do. Even if NICE says no it is not cost-effective, you can sit down with manufacturers and negotiate a price.”
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