Two local tech entrepreneurs have created a new 'matchmaking' service to connect patients with medical professionals happy to stock and prescribe medical cannabis.
Robbie Andrews and Ben Lewis are launching Leaf Supply in order to “start the conversation” about medical cannabis and better understand why, months after Jersey became the first place in Britain to allow GPs to prescribe it, there has been no uptake.
However, no details have been given about the number or identity of the practitioners or pharmacists who have signed up to the initiative to date - and it's unclear whether they'll be able to take part in the initiative without government or clinical endorsement of the plan.
Pictured: The tech business wants patients to be able to schedule an online video-call with a Jersey-licensed doctor.
The founders of Leaf Supply said they had started talking to people from “all sides of the argument”, including GPs, stockists and politicians who pushed for its legalisation.
“Due to its Class B categorisation and a lack of support from the General Medical Council (GMC), prescribing and receiving cannabis still has a stigma for both patients and healthcare professionals,” they said.
“Leaf Supply is an experiment in disrupting the healthcare industry.
“We are partnering with a network of licensed prescribers, suppliers and pharmacies to offer Jersey’s first online consultation service with medical cannabis-friendly doctors.
“Launching soon, starting with the most serious conditions, patients will be able to schedule an online video-call with a Jersey-licensed doctor, who will evaluate their individual circumstances before determining if medical cannabis could provide some relief for their condition.”
Pictured: Deputy Montfort Tadier, a longstanding medicinal cannabis campaigner, brought the successful medicinal cannabis proposals to the States Assembly last November.
Explaining the idea further to Express, the co-founders said they were at the start of a process they believe could have far-reaching benefits for local healthcare.
“We want to understand the barriers and frustrations they [medical professionals] are encountering and what the logistical issues are to importing a new controlled substance,” said Mr Lewis.
There is a “perceived stigma”, he argued, which was deterring individual practices and consultants from prescribing these treatments. Instead, he said they have been deferring to the GMC.
“That means you are waiting on a UK body to advise on something which has not been made legal yet in the UK,” said Mr Davies. “If we wait for the UK to understand where it is going we will be behind the curve. Jersey has a really interesting ability in a short window of time to do to get some real world data, and there are enough larger jurisdictions that are two or three years ahead of where Jersey is at the moment and we can learn from them.”
“What was seen as being quite a slow process five to ten years ago from a global point of view is now growing at a massive rate,” said Mr Lewis. “The attitude towards it has softened massively and we are now seeing a decrease in time it takes for it to become the norm.”
Pictured: Doctors were hesitant about the new legislation when it was introduced, with the island's leading pain specialist saying prescribing medical cannabis would contradict professional guidelines and that more research was needed.
In the first instance, they want to focus on matching patients with practitioners to devise treatment plans for more serious conditions, such as epilepsy and post-chemotherapy, and “not just as a last resort”.
Later down the line, they hope to broaden it out to less serious illnesses, either in conjunction with or completely replacing opioid drugs.
“We are trying to proactively get these treatments into the hands of patients,” said Mr Davies.
“At the end of the day there are people who would benefit from at least having the option to receive these treatments today, and legally they can.”
“Whether they are patients or prescribers, people should get in touch, we are happy to meet with any party that wants to ask questions or voice concerns,” he concluded. “The speed at which we can move going forwards is dependent on being able to have these conversations.”
Pictured: The Government has so far not revealed whether it is aware of, or has had any contact, with Leaf Supply.
But there could be a stumbling block.
The island's leading pain specialist, Dr Chad Taylor, has previously explained that, while many doctors are not opposed to the idea of prescribing medicinal cannabis, it currently goes against the professional guidelines that they are "duty-bound" to follow. For those guidelines to change, he said more research would be needed into the effects of the drug.
It also remains unclear what regulatory hurdles, if any, might need to be addressed for the service to go live.
Express asked the Government of Jersey whether it was aware of the initiative and whether there has been any contact between Leaf Supply and Health officials earlier this week. It is yet to respond.
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