Founded by a team of patient advocates with experience in the medical cannabis sector, PLEA has been set up to accelerate the integration of medical cannabis within mainstream UK healthcare.
Advocating for better quality of life for medical cannabis patients, PLEA – Patient Led Engagement for Access – is working with patients, researchers, clinicians, and prescribers with an aim to improve access to medical cannabis by overcoming barriers such as finance and geographical location, and by removing stigmas attached to the medicine.
One of the objectives of PLEA is to consult with providers for a full range of cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) and to advance patient care in the NHS through supporting initiatives such as Drug Science’s Project Twenty21. Medical Cannabis Network editor, Stephanie Price, spoke to PLEA chair and outreach lead, Abby Hughes, to find out more about the group.
Breaking the stigma and improving quality of life
The group is advocating to remove the stigma attached to using cannabis as a medicine, as well as improve quality of life for medical cannabis patients in the UK, by working with researchers and clinicians to advance research into the safety and efficacy of cannabis-based medicinal products. The group hopes to enable evidence-based prescriptions for all patients.
Abby, who is also a medical cannabis patient, said: “Currently, we still don’t know how many NHS prescriptions have been written – even with private prescriptions there are not many more, and they come at a great cost. At PLEA we felt the need to address this because as patients, and also as professionals, we feel there is still a stigma around cannabis.
“I was a manager in the NHS for ten years myself, and I was prescribed naproxen, dihydrocodeine, amitriptyline, tramadol, and was offered fentanyl patches that are stronger than street heroin. I was still expected to go to work, ironically, on drugs, to run the largest bone cancer centre in Europe – but I literally couldn’t function because the side effects of these drugs were outweighing the symptoms they were supposed to be treating.
“It seemed very wrong that the law had changed and there was still this half state where people were either for cannabis or really against it. Many people do not yet understand the endocannabinoid system and how it works, or why patients might want to replace numerous medications, including opioids, in favour of medicinal cannabis – the ‘C’ word. People don’t perhaps understand about cannabis-based medicines – so we wanted to educate and fight for quality of life and help to remove the stigma attached to cannabis medicines.
Improving access to medical cannabis in the UK
Currently in the UK, patients are able to access medical cannabis…