Q&A for the Althea UK launchHow can patients currently access cannabis-based products for medicinal use in the UK?
UK patients can only be prescribed cannabis-based products for medicinal use (CPBM) by a specialist hospital doctor. The Department of Health and Social Care has asked the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to produce a clinical guideline on the prescribing of CPBMs in humans, expected by October 2019.
Current guidance from the NHS states that CPBMs in England is only likely to be prescribed for the following conditions when other treatments weren’t suitable or hadn’t helped:
- children and adults with rare, severe forms of epilepsy
- adults with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy
When is Althea launching in the UK and where will its office be based?
Althea has already established a UK base in London. The first Althea UK products are expected to be launched in March 2019. Althea is going through the Home Office licensing process and is expecting to receive importation and supply licenses imminently.
Why is the UK a key market for Althea?
Recent changes to UK legislation in November 2018 mean that patients with specific conditions will now be able to be prescribed cannabis-based products for medicinal use through a specialist doctor. Althea UK is collaborating with UK health authorities and healthcare professionals to tackle unmet medical needs across a range of conditions and disease areas.
How do cannabis-based products for medicinal use work?
The leaves and flowering tops of cannabis plants produce therapeutic chemical compounds called cannabinoids, which, along with other compounds known as terpenes and flavonoids, have varying effects in the body.
The most well-known and well-studied cannabinoids in medical cannabis are known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC or THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
- THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects or “high” associated with cannabis.
- CBD has therapeutic effects that occur without the psychoactive effects commonly associated with cannabis.
What will cannabis-based products for medicinal use be used to treat in the UK?
- Nausea and Vomiting: Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting is a common side effect of cancer treatment. Research in this area suggests CPBMs may be of benefit in managing certain cases of acute, delayed, or anticipatory nausea associated with chemotherapy,  which may be due to the anti-nausea and anti-emetic properties associated with the cannabinoid THC.
- Epilepsy: Cannabis is generally thought to have anti-convulsant properties (although a pro-convulsant role has also been described), and may help by reducing the frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy. While the benefits of cannabis for epilepsy may be attributed to the effects of THC, the cannabinoid CBD may also have anti-epileptic properties, with the added benefit that CBD works without exerting any psychoactive effects.
What differentiates Althea from other suppliers of cannabis-based products for medicinal use?
The UK is Althea’s first venture away from Australia and Althea UK will be supplying cannabis-based products for medicinal use (CPBM) through its strategic partnership with Aphria. Aphria has been setting the standard for the low-cost production of pure pharmaceutical-grade cannabis at scale, grown in the most natural conditions possible. Aphria has already collaborated with health systems around the world and can offer valuable experience of government/industry partnership working from its experience in similarly regulated markets such as in Australia.
Althea UK will also be launching Althea UK Concierge, a medical education platform for HCPs. The platform offers access to clinical evidence on cannabis-based products for medicinal use and helps to streamline the prescription process for specialist doctors in the UK.
What activity will Althea be carrying out in the UK?
- Supplying cannabis-based products for medicinal use through specialist doctors to patients: Althea UK will be collaborating with UK health authorities and healthcare professionals to share our extensive experience in providing cannabis-based products for medicinal use to tackle unmet medical needs across a range of conditions and disease areas. Althea UK Concierge will be the platform that supports this activity.
What presence does Althea have in Europe?
Althea will be supplying cannabis-based products for medicinal use (CPBM) through its strategic partnership with Aphria. Aphria has already collaborated with health systems around the world and has a presence across Europe through subsidiaries and partnerships in Germany, Malta, Italy and Denmark.
 Medical cannabis (and cannabis oils) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/medical-cannabis/ (last accessed January 2019)
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