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Canadian firm Tilray, Inc. has exported its first bulk shipment of medicinal cannabis oil to the United Kingdom, according to a press release from the company. The shipment comes after a controversy over another Tilray product led the U.K. government to approve the use of medical cannabis therapies for some seriously ill patients.
The medicine exported to the UK is an oral solution with both THC and CBD as active ingredients. The medication is used to treat pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and multiple sclerosis-associated spasticity. Tilray produces the cannabis oil in Canada at a Good Manufacuting Practices (GMP) certified facility and has already completed bulk shipments of the drug to other European nations including Germany, Croatia, Cyprus, and Malta.
Catherine Jacobson, Tilray’s vice president of medical and regulatory affairs, said that importing the cannabis oil into the U.K. will create a more reliable and accessible source of medicine for patients.
“This bulk import of Tilray medical cannabis oral solutions provides patients in need access to a sustained supply of GMP-certified, high quality medical cannabis,” said Jacobson. “This is an important step in improving access in the U.K. Tilray will continue to advocate for reasonable patient access to medical cannabis in the U.K. and countries around the world.”
“This allows us to hold a reliable supply in the U.K. so we can avoid having to import on a per-patient basis, shortening the amount of time from prescription to the patient getting the product,” Jacobson added.
“If access is too difficult patients will just go to the black market,” she said. “We’ve seen that happen and it’s really dangerous for patients.”
Tilray’s medicinal cannabis products were thrust into the international spotlight last year when another product made by the company was confiscated by customs officials at Heathrow Airport from Charlotte Caldwell. She had traveled to Canada to obtain the medicine for her severely epileptic son Billy, who had been receiving it under a special prescription from the National Health Service. But when Britain’s Home Office ended those prescriptions in May 2018, Charlotte was left without a source of an effective medication for the 12-year–old boy.
After missing just one dose of the cannabis medicine, Billy suffered an epileptic seizure and was soon hospitalized. A public outcry augmented by pleas from celebrities caused the government to relent, and Billy’s medicine was returned. The controversy led to a reassessment of the U.K. policy on medical cannabis and in November, the government announced that it would be legal for physician specialists to prescribe cannabis medications for patients with a special clinical need.
Tilray has subsequently received approval for six of its cannabis medications to be imported into the U.K. for patients with a prescription from a specialist. The company hopes to begin importing the other five medicines in bulk by the end of the year.
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