It's an interesting time in the UK with regard to the legal status of cannabis. After a diligently executed media campaign that highlighted the need for medical cannabis, alongside a light being shined on the connections between Theresa May and drugs minister MP Victoria Atkins profiting from the UK's status as the largest cultivator and exporter of medical cannabis in the world, the government quickly performed a U-turn on their position of the plant having 'no medicinal value'.
From the 1st November 2018, medical cannabis will be available through the NHS. Whilst this is being hailed as a revolution by some, it's actually no change to our current setup, where cannabis-based medicine has been available on prescription since 2010 in the form of Sativex, a cannabis-based preparation for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. Sativex is produced by GW Pharmaceuticals, a UK company, and interestingly their majority shareholder is Philip May's investment firm. To many, this is an outright conflict of interest, providing a clear financial motive for Theresa May and her government to keep access to cannabis restricted and controlled through the channels that pay back the most dividends.
So what's actually changing?
Only certain 'cannabis-derived' medicines are to be rescheduled, meaning cannabis in its natural form remains unchanged in legality, as a controlled substance with no medicinal value. It is likely that some patients in the UK will benefit from this change; however it is equally likely that many more, including myself, will still not have legal access to cannabis under this new change.
Besides legality, price remains the biggest barrier for widespread use and adoption of cannabis products within the NHS. Access to Sativex has become harder over the years due to its prohibitive cost. Similarly, a newly approved cannabis medicine 'Epidiolex' is set to become available on the UK soon via prescription, but we ask at what cost?
On a call with investors this week, GW Pharmaceuticals revealed the price of it's CBD (cannabidiol) product would be roughly $32,500 / year. The drug is designed to treat two rare forms of childhood epilepsy and does not contain THC, the well-known psychoactive component of cannabis responsible for the drug's characteristic high.
A Tad Excessive
This price seems high to anyone that has shopped for CBD online before; so much so that we thought it would be interesting to conduct a comparison. Before we begin however, it should be pointed out that Urbanistic CBD is not a medicinal product and is only sold as a food supplement. This comparison is purely to highlight the huge disparity in price between pharmaceutical products and non-pharmaceutical products that have been organically grown, cleanly extracted and independently lab tested for purity.
We will need to convert the USD stated to GBP, so we will assume that $32,500 will translate to a nice even sum of £30,000.
The general recommended daily dose of Epidiolex is 10mg / kg / day. Let's say the child taking this medicine weighs 30kg. That means their recommended dosage would be 300mg / day.
So, taking this every day for a year would mean a consumption of (300mg x 365 days) = 109,500mg of Epidiolex. As Epidiolex is made up of 98% CBD, this means the amount of CBD consumed would be (219,000 x 0.98) 107,310mg CBD, or just under 108 grams of CBD over the course of a year.
The Urbanistic CBD Oil contains 500mg of Cannabidiol, with a price of £28 (with compassionate discount applied). At this potency, a years supply based on the above requirements would be 215 bottles. 215 x 28 = £6,450
So the final prices are £6,450 versus £30,000.
That's almost an order of magnitude of 5. Bare in mind that in reality, economies of scale means that bulk prices should be cheaper than the £6,450 mentioned.
What's the difference between the products?
Epidiolex has a medicinal licence, meaning medicinal claims can be made about the product and it can be supplied through healthcare establishments. Gaining these licences doesn't come cheap, and must be a factor in the higher price. Still, it is unlikely that the NHS would be able to fund such excessive prices and this could lead to further calls for the NHS to be privatised even further.
What about the other ingredients?
Epidiolex contains: Cannabidiol, dehydrated alcohol, sesame seed oil, strawberry flavor
Urbanistic CBD contains: Cannabidiol, olive oil, turmeric extract, black pepper extract
Our concoction uses 4 simple but effective ingredients. Black pepper increases the absorption of the other ingredients whilst olive oil acts as a perfect carrier to maximise bioavailability and insure your body uses the beneficial compounds within the CBD and turmeric effectively.
Whilst it is somewhat understandable that it's expensive to bring new drugs to market as licensed medicines, we whole heartedly feel that there is too much money up for grabs in an industry that should put people & health outcomes over profit. We feel that cannabis is one of the safest and most valuable plants on the planet, and should be freely available to everyone. To that end, whilst we will continue to respect and abide by local laws, we will also continue to advocate and support complete access to all forms of cannabis for all consenting adults.
Disclaimer: Our CBD is sold only as a food supplement and is not intended to replace any medicinal products. Consult your doctor before using CBD. CBD is sold only as a food supplement.