29 July 2010

One of our Drugs Acts is Missing!

It's strange, that, if you try finding a complete list of drugs which are 'controlled' under the Misuse of Drugs Act, it simply doesn't seem to exist on line.

It's a broken up, jumbled mess spread across numerous websites and documents. It's not of course helped that The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is interlinked with the Misuse of Drugs Regulations (2001) which in turn were an update an consolidation of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations (1985). So there are two primary pieces of legislation. When drugs have been added, removed, moved down, or, as is more likely moved up the categories, parliamentary "Statutory Instruments" have been used to insert the changes.

But unfortunately these changes haven't been consolidated in the main legislation, and so to get a complete list of all the drugs you have to trawl across numerous pieces of legislation.

So look, for example at the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as posted on the Statute Law Database, Thi, unfortunately hasn't incorporated changes since 2003.

Or the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 on the Office of Public Sector Information - none of the numerous changes to the Regulations obvious here either.

Most of them took place through Statutory Instruments - a directory of these can be found on the OPSI website too, but searching within these for "Misuse of Drugs Act 1971" throws up some 720 results which can, with a bit of filtering be reduced to some 35 or so SIs.

There's another list which is a bit more accessible on the Home Office website which is snappily titled "List of Drugs Currently Controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Legislation" which is almost up to date (it ends at March 2010) and is fairly comprehensive - but doesn't include all the various analogue clauses.

But if you want a list of all the drugs, with all the analogue clauses, which reflects all the changes - well there isn't one officially available.

This strikes me as fairly shoddy. People should at least be able to find out which substances are currently legal or illegal in a relatively straightforward way. If people are to make informed choices, a key choice is to know if what they are going to do is illegal or not. After all, possession of these substances can carry a long custodial sentence. And ignorance of the law is no defence.

So, for want of anything better to do I spent a couple of days cutting and pasting the list of drugs together from the two base lists of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Misuse of Drugs Legislation 2001. I went through all the Statutory Instruments and inserted the relevant additions and ammendments in the right places. And to finish off I colour coded the additions to the Statutory Instrument which introduced them, so you can see which changes were introduced by which legislation.

I don't know how useful it is but it's certainly very pretty now. And I thought that,somewhere on the Net there should be a complete list of the Controlled drugs in the UK by Class and Schedule.

I'm going to update the version off the Home Office website next (with some better annotation) but first I need to get rid of the splitting headache that this has given me.

Enjoy the full colurful list here on the KFx Website.

28 July 2010

The Most Expensive Weed in The World...

With the price of cannabis, especially herbal cannabis, hurtling upwards people are starting to pay silly prices for cannabis - prices of £250+ per ounce are being quoted. In these desperate financial times it seems that cannabis dealers are determined not to succumb to austerity measures.

But their inflated prices are nothing compared to the prices being charged by GW Pharmaceuticals and Bayer - who were recently granted a licence for their cannabis spray, Sativex. The price to the NHS of this new drug will be £125 for a 10ml vial. Sativex contains THC at a level of 27mg/ml. So a 10ml vial would contain 270mg. Or £125 for just over a quarter of a gram of THC. Or £600 per gram for THC.

Now compare this to an ounce of herbal cannabis. For the sake of argument (and easy maths) think about an ounce (28g) of strong skunk (say 25% THC). That's 7g of THC - probably selling at around £250/ounce. Or £35/g for this THC. Which is a fair bit cheaper.

Of course, there's GW Pharmaceuticals R+D costs to cover - although the original plants were bought from Dutch growers, and Bayers shareholders to pay. And there's the perks for the board.

But when the NHS is so strapped for cash, surely every little helps!

THC and CBD to be Rescheduled - Home Office confirms

In June 2010 the cannabis-derived medicine Sativex received its licence in the UK. This meant that it had received approval to be used as a medicine. The active compounds in Sativex are THC and CBD.

This is problematic from a legal point of view. Cannabinol and its derivatives are currently Schedule 1 drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. Drugs under Schedule 1 are generally cannot be prescribed and their possession, supply or administration is not permitted without a licence being granted by the Secretary of State.

This put THC and CBD in a somewhat invidious position. Licensed as a medicine but still in the most restrictive category of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations.

At present the Home Office has adopted a work-around. The Secretary of State has granted an open general licence to allow this specific medicine to be prescribed. This an interesting work-around, of dubious legality. It probably doesn't extend to all the other parties who need to be able to handle the drug - such as pharmacists for example. This would require more substantial revision of the legislation.

And indeed the Home Office has confirmed to us that it intends to undertake just such a revision - to move THC and CBD from Schedule 1 to a lower schedule which would allow it to be lawfully prescribed at a POM (prescription only medicine) and CD (controlled drug). This would probably mean it moving to Schedule 2 (same Schedule as Methadone) or Schedule 3 (the same as Buprenorphine).

But the really interesting part of this is that the legislation will not be able to specify the brand "Sativex." It would have to specify the specific compounds THC and CBD. Which means that the key active ingredients of cannabis will be recognised as having a legitimate medical use.

This doesn't mean a huge cause for celebration. It doesn't mean that herbal cannabis or cannabis resin will also change schedule. It will be very easy to specify that herbal cannabis and resin stay in Schedule 1 while certain cannabinoids drop down to Schedule 2.

But why it is so interesting is the issues of patent and trademark this throws up.
GW Pharmaceuticals coined the terms Tetranabinex and Nabidiolex and registered these as Trademarks. So these names, along with Sativex are protected. Similarly, the specific strains of cannabis hybridised by GW Pharmaceuticals are also Patented in some countries. So growing these specific strains without licence would be illegal.

But the underlying compounds - THC and CBD are not patented. And so while GW and Bayer now have a patent, license and trademark for Sativex, this is not in itself an obstacle to other producers developing their own products which are based around finding an effective balance of THC and CBD in an effective delivery mechanism.

It is to be hoped that, when THC and CBD are rescheduled, as they inevitably will be, this will open up the scope for more groups to explore the medical uses of cannabinoids, rather than them being consolidated in the hands of a big pharmaceutical giant like Bayer.