The start of 2023 has seen a range of positive developments in the UK medicinal cannabis sector. At Óskare Capital we see this as further evidence of the UK cementing it’s significance in the European medicinal cannabis ecosystem.
New government data shows that the UK medical cannabis market has seen considerable growth in the last two years. The number of privately prescribed unlicensed cannabis-based medicines rose from 47,525 between November 2018 and January 2022 to 89,239 between November 2018 and July 2022. It should be noted that due to delays in reporting, it is understood that this increase of 41,525 prescriptions likely occurred from Q2 2021 onwards (rather than a single 6 month period in 2022). Nevertheless, this increased access is very encouraging news for the industry and patients alike.
It has also been reported that the number of licensed private prescriptions has risen over the same period. Currently, there are three licensed cannabis medicines available in the UK, Nabilone, Sativex, and Epidyolex. In public healthcare, the rate of NHS licensed prescriptions remained consistent over this period at around 12,000.
Recently there has also been encouraging news for the UK’s domestic supply of medical cannabis, including cannabinoid derived active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). Indeed, this month, Celadon Pharmaceuticals received an EU GMP license from the MHRA for the production of high-THC APIs. Whilst a range of other companies have EU GMP approval for CBD-based APIs, Celadon has become only the second company after GW Pharma to receive high-THC API approval. This news precipitated a 12% surge in Celadon’s share price. What’s more extraordinary is that this is the first new license granted in the UK since 1998, signalling a more proactive engagement from the UK government in the medical cannabis market after a 25 year hiatus.
Additionally, Scottish cultivator Hilltop Leaf secured £2m in private funding from a consortium of investors. This has enabled them to start commercial sales and become one of the UK’s largest medical cannabis producers. Both Celadon and Hilltop aim to reduce the UK’s dependence on medical cannabis imports from other countries. Hilltop’s CEO stated that the company intends to compete with countries such as Canada, Germany, and Israel in the supply medicinal cannabis.
Finally, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently recommended the reimbursement of Epidyolex, a cannabidiol-based medication developed by GW Pharma. Epidyolex has been approved as adjunctive therapy for seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a condition in which benign tumours grow in vital organs and epilepsy is a common neurological feature. The recommendation by NICE follows decisions by the Scottish Medicines Consortium, Northern Ireland’s Strategic Planning and Performance Group, and the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group. As a result, all eligible UK patients who may benefit from the medicine will have access to it from March 2023 on the NHS.