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Medical Cannabis

Volume 696: debated on Tuesday 8 June 2021

What recent progress his Department has made on helping to ensure that medical cannabis is accessible to people who require it under prescription. (900830)

I have discussed these concerns with the hon. Member and with the co-chairs of the all-party parliamentary group on medical cannabis under prescription, and he knows that I sympathise deeply with the parents of these children and with the patients and their families, many of whom I have met. They are dealing courageously with conditions that are difficult to treat. My immediate priority was to resolve the supply of Bedrocan oil from the Netherlands. I have further meetings planned to make progress on other issues in this incredibly complex situation.

I welcome today’s letter from the Minister detailing the extension of the arrangements for the provision of Bedrocan, and I am pleased that we are working towards the manufacture of Bedrocan oils in the UK. I have two issues today. The first is that patients still need to pay for their medicines. If the numbers are so small and this is such a niche product, surely it could be provided free on the NHS. Secondly, I have been told that research is ongoing regarding the wider possibilities for medical cannabis, but despite being promised an update a month ago, I am still waiting for one from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency on clinical trials and the licence application. Could that please be forthcoming?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have met Dr June Raine from the MHRA and subsequently met further specialist clinicians in this area to discuss progress with the research and evidence on supporting prescribing on the NHS. Establishing clinical trials is vital, with the support of the National Institute for Health Research, to make sure that we are making the right decisions on routine funding. From 1 April, we have introduced a national patient registry to record data and monitor patient outcomes in England, with a view to it being rolled out across Scotland and the other devolved Administrations later this year; this covers both licensed and unlicensed cannabis-based medicines on the NHS, with a view to including private patients in due course. As he knows, I am very focused on making sure we get the right solutions for families, but at the heart of this matter always has to lie the safety of what we prescribe.

Question 24 about covid-19 variants has been withdrawn, but if the Minister can give a response, we can go to Justin Madders for his supplementary question.

The Government have produced a four-step road map to ease restrictions across England. Before each step, an assessment is made against the four tests, including assessing the current risk posed by variants of concern. The move to step 3 on 17 May was based on the assessment that the risks were not fundamentally changed by those variants of concern. Step 4 is due no earlier than 21 June and the variants of concern will again be considered in advance.

On Sky News, on Sunday, the Secretary of State was asked about figures that contradict his claim that India was not put on the red list at the same time as Bangladesh and Pakistan because positivity rates were three times higher in those countries. In response, he said that he did not recognise those figures, but he should have done, because they are his own figures from Test and Trace. Indeed, there are no published figures for the time the decision was made that support his claim. Given the allegation that the only reason there was a delay in putting India on the red list was to help secure a trade deal, and given that this delay is now having serious consequences, will the Minister agree to publish all the data and advice on which the decision was based, in the interests of transparency and accountability?

The positivity rates were three times higher from Pakistan than they were from India when we made that decision. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we keep these things under constant review and we would be equally lambasted if decisions were made before we had the correct information. Acting when we have the right information on variants of concern is an important thing; we will keep following the data.