Steve Alexander works with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to change UK law on the use of Cannabis-based products for medicinal use
Steve Alexander is Associate Professor of Molecular Pharmacology in the School of Life Sciences. His research expertise expands from studies of the endocannabinoid system and their role in pain and inflammation, pharmacology and biochemistry of G protein-coupled receptors, to the role of mitochondria in cell survival after drug exposure. This nomination is for Dr Alexander’s use of his expertise to influence UK policy around Cannabis-based products for medicinal use.
Scientific evidence has been accumulating on the effectiveness of Cannabis-based products for medicinal use (CBPMs) for the treatment of chronic pain, inflammation, mood disorders, sleep and severe childhood epilepsy. In 2018, faced with this evidence and a strong public campaign for the legalisation of medicinal Cannabis for the treatment of childhood epilepsy, the UK Government was supportive of rescheduling CBMPs to allow for their legal prescription. In a move to gain public support, particularly in light of ongoing negative perceptions and association of medicinal and recreational Cannabis, the then UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid requested a review of public health issues by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) ahead of the rescheduling.
Dr Alexander was recruited to the CBMP working group of the ACMD as a co-opted member. Statutory Instrument 2018 No1055 was published following guidance provided by this working group to the Secretary of State and after meetings with the Home Office, the Medicines and Health Regulatory Authority, the National Health Service, Public Health England and the ACMD. The document addresses the therapeutic potential of Cannabis-based medicinal products and resulted in the introduction of new UK law and their rescheduling. The impact of this change in legislation is beginning to appear with a first report published in November 2020, which summarises the limited available data and offers recommendations on continued assessment of impact.
Since 2018, Dr Alexander’s specific expertise has led him to be co-opted to two further ACMD working groups. In 2020, he was invited to join the Systematic Drug Scheduling Protocols working group and asked to provide consistent, clear guidance for assigning existing and novel drugs to particular Schedules. Their report was presented to the ACMD, which will communicate with the Home Secretary. Similarly, in 2021 Dr Alexander joined the Commercial Cannabidiol Preparations working group, which aims to develop guidance for the Cannabis-based drug industry as to the legal contents of cannabinoid in their commercial cannabidiol preparations. A resulting report is currently with the ACMD to be presented to the UK Government.
In order to educate and gain public support on the use of Cannabis-based medicinal products, Dr Alexander has participated in numerous local and national TV and Radio programmes, including BBC Morning Live, BBC South East Today, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Nottingham. He has also engaged with the clinical professional community in national and international specialised conferences. His aim is to educate clinicians on the therapeutic action of medicinal Cannabis in order to increase the safe prescription and uptake of licensed CBPMs.
Posted on Tuesday 1st March 2022