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British medical cannabis patients suffer Bedrocan Brexit blow.

British medical cannabis patients suffer Bedrocan Brexit blow.

The British government said it is ‘working urgently’ with Dutch officials to find a solution, after a pharmacy in the Netherlands stopped dispensing Bedrocan to those in possession of a British prescription.

Merely a week since the UK officially left the European Union, patients who rely on medical cannabis product Bedrocan fear supplies will soon run out due to Brexit.

A pharmacy based in the Netherlands, which previously dispensed cannabis-based medicinal product Bedrocan to British patients of epilepsy, including children with rare and severe forms of epilepsy, will no longer do so because of Brexit.

The news has led to grave concern among the medical cannabis community.

On December 15, 2020, a letter notifying of the change to come at the end of the transition period was sent to suppliers, clinics and stakeholders by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Wholesalers were asked to take immediate action to work with prescribers and clinics to ensure supply against current prescriptions and identify alternative products that may be suitable for their patients. 

The news caused concern and disruption over the Christmas period among the families of those with severe forms of epilepsy who have tried every medical course of treatment available.

A spokesperson for Transvaal Pharmacy near Rotterdam told The CANNAVIST that the organisation feels ‘very sorry’ for patients in the UK who have been affected by the Brexit deal in place.

“The pharmacists of the Transvaal Pharmacy feel very sorry for the patients who are affected by the Brexit deal.

“Due to this deal, we are unable to supply medicinal cannabis oil as a treatment for epilepsy. The UK government is responsible for finding an appropriate solution for the import of the Transvaal Pharmacy cannabis oil for patients in the UK.

“Also, the immigration of families to the Netherlands is undesirable, as occurred a couple of years ago. ” 

Related: New scheduling could pave the way for more Epidyolex on the NHS

Dr Andy Yates is Pharmacy Lead for the UK’s Centre for Medicinal Cannabis. He says the situation is far from ideal for patients.

“Supply issues and discontinuations of medicines have always been a difficult challenge for the medical community to deal with, especially when dealing with vulnerable patients who are stabilised on a particular medicine.

“This situation is exacerbated when you are dealing with a complex medicine such as CBMPs. Working with our members, we have been able to provide the DHSC with a list of CBMPs that may be suitable for substitution, but as the article points out they do have differences in composition and would therefore require careful medical management if a solution to supplying Transvaal products cannot be found”.

One parent told The Guardian newspaper she was given two weeks’ notice by the Department for Health and Social Care, that her son’s medicine would no longer be accessible once the transition period ended on January 1.

Hannah Deacon, avid campaigner and mother to 9-year-old Alfie Dingley, told the newspaper the department said, “prescriptions issued in the UK can no longer be lawfully dispensed in an EU member state”.

While initially, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson advised patients to seek alternative cannabis medicines through their specialist doctor, that may not be necessary as the government says it will work with Dutch officials to find a solution.

A government spokesperson said:

“We sympathise with patients dealing with challenging conditions and we are working urgently with the Dutch government to find a solution which will enable patients to access the medications they need.”

According to the health department, the new rules are not said to impact the export of Bedrocan flowers, which may continue to be imported under Dutch law, or other medicinal cannabis products imported from other countries.

The crisis is understood to affect up to 40 patients, many of whom are children.

Dutch law prevents the export of certain medicinal cannabis products (finished Bedrocan oils).  Previously such products were allowed to be dispensed in the Netherlands under UK prescriptions.

Related: Find your nearest medical cannabis clinic!

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