In a recent development reported by The Times, the British Paediatric Neurology Association (BPNA) finds itself at the centre of a contentious debate surrounding the prescribing of medical cannabis oil to severely epileptic children in the UK.
Critics argue that the association is possibly influenced by substantial donations received from pharmaceutical giants, thus provoking concerns of a conflict of interest.
Over the past couple of years, the BPNA, which has recently urged doctors to offer round-the-clock support for children prescribed with medical cannabis – a directive neither legally binding nor within its regulatory power, has reportedly accepted substantial donations from three pharmaceutical firms known for their proprietary epilepsy drugs.
These firms, including Novartis, UCB, and GW Pharma, have collectively contributed a considerable sum to the BPNA’s coffers, raising eyebrows and calling into question the motives behind BPNA’s recent directives.
Recently, BPNA has accepted £14,000 from Novartis, £3,000 from UCB, and a significant £24,000 from GW Pharma, the maker of a well-known CBD treatment, Epidyolex.
Many parents have reportedly found relief for their children who have been resistant to conventional treatments, in “full-spectrum” cannabis oils which combine CBD and minimal quantities of the psychoactive component, THC.
Notwithstanding the anecdotal success stories, the BPNA remains staunch in its opposition, citing a lack of comprehensive randomised controlled trials to back the efficacy of these oils, and thereby encouraging neurologists to adhere to treatments with well-documented benefits.
This stance, however, has attracted criticism from several quarters. Speaking to The Times, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt lambasted the “improperly conservative approach” which seems to place financial gains over patient welfare, effectively stifling potential relief avenues for sufferers.
Moreover, founder of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, Professor Mike Barnes, pointed out the increased risks of unforeseen fatalities and brain damage this could entail, lamenting the missed opportunities to potentially enhance the life quality of terminally ill children.
Matt Hughes, representing the Medcan Family Foundation, accused the BPNA of disregarding both concrete evidence and the experiences of patients, resulting in parents resorting to unsanctioned alternatives, including the illicit market, in desperation.
Responding to the controversy, the BPNA defended their stance asserting adherence to core principles of good clinical practice and ensuring transparency and legality in accepting sponsorships, which are purportedly channelled towards research and educational purposes.
In a climate where trust and transparency are paramount, this unfolding narrative calls for stringent scrutiny to ensure that the best interests of patients are not compromised in favour of corporate gain or other vested interests.