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‘Life-changing’ impact of medical cannabis in epilepsy patients revealed

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A new report has revealed the impact of medical cannabis on patients with severe epilepsy

A new report has revealed the ‘remarkable’ and ‘life-changing’ impact of medical cannabis on ten patients with severe epilepsy.

The study, published by Drug Science, followed ten patients, aged two to 48-years-old, with intractable, childhood onset epilepsies.

It found that patients saw an average 97 percent reduction in seizures following treatment with cannabis medicines. 

Four patients, who were prescribed Epidiolex, a licensed cannabis medicine in the UK, did not see any improvement in their condition until they were given the whole plant extract – suggesting a combination of CBD and THC based products was crucial in effectively managing the condition. 

The carers of patients provided details of their age, diagnosis, previous and current antiepileptic drugs and number of seizures before and after taking cannabis based medicines, through the campaign group End our Pain. This data was then analysed by researchers at Drug Science.

As well as the clear improvement in their condition, the report also highlights the staggering financial barriers facing patients, with the average monthly cost of cannabis medicines more than £1,800.

Those families included in the study spend more than £20,000 a year on their children’s medicines –  almost five times the price of the same medication in the Netherlands.

Lead author Rayyan Zafar told Cannabis Health: “The aim was to provide a scientific platform to convey the impact that medical cannabis treatment has had on children suffering from various forms of severe epilepsies. We wanted to assess primarily what the effects were on their seizure frequency as well as highlighting the extremely high costs of private prescriptions.”

He continued: “We saw a dramatic 97 percent average reduction across the cohort in seizure frequency following treatment with medical cannabis. These effects were seen using whole-plant extracts which combine THC and CBD therapy, which is not currently a National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended treatment. 

“Surprisingly the four patients that had the NICE recommended Epidiolex did not improve on this longer term and only saw beneficial effects once whole plant extracts were taken.”

 Researchers conclude that the impact of cannabis medicines on these patients was ‘remarkable’ and often ‘life-changing’ and argue that the paper provides important evidence that should be taken into account, in addition to RCTs.

Dr Anne Katrin Schlag, head of research at Drug Science, said: “We think our findings make a very strong case for prescribing these medicines to this group of children and young adults who have been clearly shown to benefit from it. 

“We are currently following up with a subsection of patients who for cost reasons, had to discontinue their medications, leading to their seizures returning, adding further validity to the current findings.

“We hope our report will contribute to make access to these medicines easier, and to allow for medicinal cannabis to become accessible on the NHS for these patients who are shown to benefit from it.”

Although randomised controlled trials (RTCs) are recommended to provide clinical evidence on the efficacy of unlicensed cannabis medicines, it would be ‘extremely difficult’ to conduct these in very ill patients, according to the report.

Those already taking cannabis medicines would be required to undergo a ‘wash out’ period to come off their current medication and run the risk of being given a placebo, which parents have warned could put their lives at risk.

“Whilst the paper has been received with great interest, we expect responses will also call for greater sample sizes, which we are in the process of doing, and the application of RCTs,” added Zafar and Dr Schlag.

“However, RCTs in these children suffering from severe epilepsies would be unethical and highly costly.”

Campaigner Hannah Deacon, whose son Alfie Dingley is one of a handful of patients to have an NHS prescription for medical cannabis – and who continues to support others to get access – welcomed the report, saying it must be accepted as evidence.

“It is clear from this study that whilst some doctors may believe medical cannabis is something to be frightened of, it is quite the contrary. These patients are having reduced seizures – sometimes none for days on end – and a hugely improved quality of life. This is evidence and must be accepted as such,” she said.

“The families who spend every day raising money to keep their children safe are in fact saving the NHS huge sums of money every day by keeping their children safe at home. I am tired of seeing this medicine blocked every day by different people who should be putting patients and their wellbeing at the centre of everything they do. 

“It is time that we see safe access for these families and the many millions more in the UK.”

Professor Mike Barnes, who obtained the first license to prescribe medical cannabis in the UK, added that it was time others in the profession ‘embraced’ cannabis as a medicine. 

He commented: “This paper shows the real efficacy of cannabis for children with epilepsy. Isn’t it now time for the paediatric neurology community to embrace this medicine and start to prescribe rather than hounding those that do.”

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All female-led CBD company to list on London Stock Exchange

It will be the first multi-brand CBD-focused consumer goods business to list on the LSE.

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South West Brands CEO Rebekah Hall (second right) leads the all-female management team

The multi-brand consumer goods company South West Brands has announced its intention to apply for listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

South West Brands expects to be admitted to the LSE in July and will be the first multi-brand CBD-focused consumer goods business to list on the LSE.

The group develops, licences, and markets CBD brands to consumers across the UK.

It plans to raise equity to continue to develop its existing portfolio of brands and pursue its strategy of adding more assets over the next two years.

Launched earlier this year, the all-female management team brings together extensive experience from both the consumer products sector and the CBD industry, supported by an exemplary board with experience across brand building, marketing, licensing, finance, and cannabis.

Its CEO Rebekah Hall brings almost a decade of experience in investment banking to the role, and helped set up Botanic Lab, the company behind Europe’s first CBD drink in 2018.

Rebekah Hall, CEO comes from a background in investment banking

Hall commented: “This is a key moment in the development of the CBD industry. South West Brands is uniquely placed to take advantage of this growing market and the significant opportunity that exists in branded goods. The time is right to advance consumer products expertise, discipline, and structures that can elevate the industry and consumer experience, ultimately building world class brand assets that utilise CBD.

“Our listing on the London Stock Exchange will enable South West Brands to access the new pool of cannabis investors that has grown in London following the successful admission of a number of cannabis companies in 2021. The Admission will allow the Group to advance to the next stages of its growth plans, and build a suite of strong brands that not only utilise CBD, but drive consumer engagement and product sell-through, something which has been missing in the industry thus far.”

The company has identified key product areas and markets which it will look to build and develop quality CBD brands that address areas of underserved consumer need.

These include: Drinks, Menstrual cycle care, Generation Z Skincare, Sport, Men’s holistic wellness, Menopausal care and 50+ supplements.

As well as Botanic Lab, the South West Brands has two further brands in development that are expected to launch later in the year, including Love,MeMeMe a Generation Z focused beauty and wellness brand, and FEWE, a menstrual cycle care brand.

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Daniel Gauci – the crowdgrowing pioneer aiming to revolutionise the cannabis industry

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The ‘Gentleman Smoker’ is a stylish, family man  – and cannabis influencer. His mission is to break down stigmas by promoting responsible use of cannabis among its many benefits.

Under this public figure we find Daniel Gauci, CBDO at JuicyFields, a medicinal cannabis crowdgrowing platform that is revolutionising the fast-growing industry.

Today he is with us to talk about his relationship within the cannabis industry and the medicinal resources that offer the world’s most famous green plant.

What is it like to be The Gentleman Smoker? Tell us about the positive and negative aspects.

The Gentleman Smoker came about from the want of promoting the positive aspects of medicinal marijuana from a realistic albeit different perspective.

To break the stereotypes of what a typical cannabis user is and to show that a modern day cannabis user is a professional, responsible person.

I have a vast history with cannabis and most if not all is positive, from positive, personal points of view regarding introspection, mental health and productivity matters to the medicinal benefits within many diseases including ones my children suffer from.

The negative aspects, if I have to view it that way, would be that my private and professional life are now as one, and that my thoughts and motives are there for all to see, but that also has positives.

Many people still deny the health benefits that cannabis has to offer, what do you think about that?

The evidence is there. I am still surprised to hear the claim that there is not enough research, data or studies regarding medicinal marijuana and the benefits that it offers.

There are more than fifteen thousand peer reviewed studies and trials freely available for review and many more recently that focus on the endocannabinoid system that is clearly recognised throughout the medical world, with many clinicians prescribing cannabis for a multitude of treatments.

It does pain me that people can deny something when the information is freely available, however, it is understandable due to the many years of negative propaganda campaigns.

More and more countries are changing their legislation and perception of medical cannabis. Will we ever see a world in which medical cannabis is legislated and socially accepted?

I hope so. However, let us not forget there are places in the world where it is still a crime to be gay or to favor one religion over another.

There are many challenges that marijuana legislation faces but I see them being overcome one by one.

Let us take Europe as an example, the shift for positive legislation has come quick with governments and medicine authorities realising the potential that medicinal marijuana offers not only as medicine for patients but as an industry for the nation.

If we look at the current predicted figures the industry is expected to boom in the coming years, this will only speed up favourable legislation ultimately benefiting the consumer.

If we look back 10 or even 5 years, progress is gaining insatiable momentum that was not predicted by many so soon.

You have a background experience in the pharmaceutical field. Could you list some new medical benefits that can be found in cannabis if research continues?

Everyday I wonder where the research will take us. I read almost weekly of new applications and possible uses that medicinal marijuana can offer.

Not just in relation to cannabinoids but also in relation to terpenes and also the entourage effect, the innovation is truly outstanding.

When I studied pharmacology we touched upon cannabis in relation to the psychoactive elements in relation to the body and mind but since then microbiology and the understanding of chemical relationships has advanced so much I believe that we will keep learning more about this wonderful plant and what she has to offer for many years to come.

The most curious aspect for me is the relationship between the creation of amino acids and the importance of synapse connection in relation to speech. I am very much looking forward to the progress in this particular field of research.

On a personal level, what influence has medical cannabis had on your life?

Cannabis has held a different influence over me at various stages during my life. From one off theory and research to that of actively keeping members of my family alive.

The gap is profound and stretches so far but to narrow in on the practical medical applications in a personal scenario, it would be that of helping to save our baby daughters life.

It showed me how persecution from ignorance was prevalent in many avenues in life, not just in the medical marijuna world. In reflection it influenced me to be a better person, father, husband and member of society.

Having seen with your own eyes the benefits of medical cannabis, what would you say to those who want to try but are not sure about it?

Go and do it and do not waste time. Seek medical expertise prior but do not wait for any condition to worsen. Cannabis, while not 100% safe in all methods and for all people, has very little side effects with very, very high quantities needed for any type of overdosing classification.

Medicinal marijunana can have an immediate effect in certain conditions such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease with other conditions and symptoms being alleviated within minutes.

There are numerous resources available that can guide and help you to make an informed decision. Currently we are treating our severely autistic, non verbal son with CBD oil.

The results are proving positive, the studies and trials undergoing currently, particularly in Spain, are very encouraging.

My daughter was treated with high strength (and dosage) of full spectrum THC oil when undergoing chemotherapy for a tumor on her kidney, not only did it help with managing negative side effects of the harsher treatments, we believe also stopped the tumor from growing. (However, we have no medical evidence to present for this claim).

What is the role of JuicyFields regarding the medical cannabis industry?

JuicyFields enables people to support the medicinal cannabis industry by keeping the supply chain within grassroots and community cultivation level operations.

JuicyFields is adamant that the people working within this industry for years, fighting for legislation and research should be the ones to benefit now that legislation is positive and the industry being legalised.

We operate so that the money generated in this industry goes back to the community farmers and cultivators and processors so that they can continue to support themselves and grow, rather than having to sell their lands or businesses to multinational corporations eager to monopolise the industry for profit.

Is crowdgrowing going to change the course of the cannabis industry? How?

I believe so, yes. The other role of JuicyFields is to provide easy access to those wanting to support and invest in the medical cannabis industry.

For those who have looked, it is very expensive and prohibitive to enter. High costs, many licenses, industry knowledge and a highly skilled workforce is required if one were to venture in the industry as a normal business might.

That is where crowdgrowing comes into play. JuicyFields provides a platform that these budding entrepreneurs and investors can not only support the grass roots level cultivators but to also make a profit for themselves without the heavy time and financial commitment usually required.

The cultivation partners on the platform are all vetted to the highest of standards and comply with every regulation required where they operate and beyond.

All with full compliance and cultivation licenses from the relevant authorities and are also insured. This means that crowdgrowers are fully legal and compliant to enter into what is traditionally an exclusive yet very profitable and fast growing industry.

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Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia and cannabis: What does the latest research say?

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Fibromyalgia is a condition which causes chronic pain across the body

Cannabis Health rounds up the latest research into the impact of cannabis on fibromyalgia. 

There are thought to be around 1.5-2 million people in the UK currently living with fibromyalgia, a condition which causes chronic pain around the body, muscle stiffness and fatigue.

With no cure for the illness and symptoms severely affecting day-to-day life, research is focusing on therapeutic treatments – including medical cannabis. 

In 2019, research published by Sagy, Schleider, Abu-Shackra and Novak showed that cannabis can help reduce fibromyalgia pain. The study of 367 patients found that pain intensity decreased when treated with medical marijuana, leading the team to state that “cannabis therapy should be considered to ease the symptom burden among those fibromyalgia patients who are not responding to standard care”.

Chaves, Bittencourt and Pelegrini further supported these findings in October 2020, concluding that phytocannabinoids can serve as an affordable yet well-tolerated therapy for fibromyalgia symptom relief and quality of life improvements. 

After the randomised controlled trial, the researchers went as far as to suggest that the cannabinoid therapy “could become an herbal or holistic choice of medicine for treating fibromyalgia as part of Brazil’s public healthcare system”.

A study in Italy, published in February 2020, also demonstrated that medical cannabis improves the efficacy of standard analgesic fibromyalgia treatments. 

Researchers concluded: “This observational study shows that medical cannabis treatment offers a possible clinical advantage in fibromyalgia patients, especially in those with sleep dysfunctions.” 

Published in the Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology journal, the study followed 102 fibromyalgia patients who had not responded well to conventional treatments. These participants were given two forms of medical cannabis oil extracts and researchers then collected data over a six-month period from patients, who self-reported fibromyalgia symptoms, how well they slept, and feelings of fatigue, as well as depression and anxiety levels.

While only a third of fibromyalgia patients reported reduced symptoms of the disease overall, cannabis did improve overall quality of life for some. Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety were found in around half of patients, too. 

Despite fibromyalgia being more common amongst women – up to 90 per cent of sufferers are female – one study has found that cannabis may provide better pain relief for men.

The preclinical studies, conducted in 2016, compared the analgesic, subjective and physiological effects of active cannabis and inactive cannabis in male and female cannabis smokers under double-blind, placebo-controlled conditions, and measured pain response through the Cold-Pressor Test. 

Among men, active cannabis significantly decreased pain sensitivity relative to inactive cannabis. However, in women, active cannabis failed to decrease pain sensitivity relative to inactive, indicating that in cannabis smokers, men exhibit greater analgesia compared to women.

Researchers concluded: “Sex-dependent differences in cannabis’ analgesic effects are an important consideration that warrants further investigation when considering the potential therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for pain relief.”

While further research is necessary, it is clear to see that medical cannabis can make a huge difference to treatment and relief of pain caused by fibromyalgia.

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