Pubdate: Tue, 14 Jun 2005
Source: Eastern Daily Press (UK)
Copyright: 2005, Archant Regional
Author: Stephen Pullinger


A Norfolk doctor hit out last night at health authorities for refusing to
license a cannabis-based pain relief drug he developed in trials at the
James Paget Hospital, Gorleston.

Consultant anaesthetist Dr William Notcutt described the decision as
"bureaucracy gone mad" and warned it had implications for thousands of
patients suffering from chronic pain.

He criticised the Department of Health's Medicines and Health Care Products
Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for basing its decision on information from one
study, instead of considering the range of studies available.

The setback comes only weeks after the same drug, Sativex, was licensed for
use in Canada.

Dr Notcutt, who started Britain's first clinical trial of cannabis as a
medicine five years ago at the James Paget, said: "Canada is a First World
country, not some banana republic. We were expecting a licence for the drug
in this country too, but they have stuffed it. I am very upset and angry."

He said the Canadian authorities had based their decision on a portfolio of
studies, and it raised questions about the bureaucracy in the MHRA that
meant it looked at only a single study.

"The MHRA was satisfied about the quality and safety of the drug but was not
convinced by the study it looked at," he said.

The decision means there will have to be more trials, and it could be a year
to 18 months before there is any chance that Sativex - administered via a
mouth spray - could be made available in the UK.

The drug would have been initially licensed to treat multiple sclerosis
patients suffering from painful tight-ness in the muscles. However, Dr
Notcutt is convinced it could help in treating a range of other conditions
from osteo-arthritis to spinal injuries.

He said: "There are a lot of patients wanting to try it, and I believe 25pc
of people attending my clinic would benefit. There are a lot of patients who
don't get on with morphine or anti-inflammatory drugs who have nothing to
treat their pain."

Dr Notcutt said he was already aware of patients illegally buying and using
cannabis resin and he would not be surprised if more resorted to doing so.

The Court of Appeal last month rejected a bid to permit the use of cannabis
for the relief of chronic pain, dismissing appeals in six cases where people
were fined or given suspended prison sentences after convictions for
possessing or importing cannabis.
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