‘UK can lead the way’: An interview with Canopy Growth’s Cosmo Feilding-Mellen

Cosmo Feilding-Mellen is the managing director of pharmaceutical company Spectrum Therapeutics UK.

Spectrum was formed as a partnership between Beckley Canopy Therapeutics, a UK cannabis research company, and Canopy Growth Corporation, one of the world’s leading cannabis companies.

Canopy Growth operates around the world and serves 80,000 medical cannabis patients.

Mr Feilding-Mellen has been a close collaborator of the Beckley Foundation – a UK drug research institute – for almost a decade, and was involved in the formation of the Beckley-Exeter Cannabis Research Programme in partnership with Exeter University.

The Leaf Desk: As of November, patients in the UK can be prescribed medical cannabis by specialist doctors. Are you optimistic about wider adoption in the future?

“They (the UK government) have already taken a huge step allowing patient access. That’s a big first step.

“But there are a lot of complexities in the regulations that are preventing adequate patient access. 

“There’s a huge amount of frustration – it’s been a false dawn.

“There’s work to be done, but we can’t forget there has been movement in the right direction.

Mr Feilding-Mellen says the UK can set the standard for research

“In every country where this has happened, there have been teething problems and additional updates to the regulatory framework.

“If you look at all the other countries around the world, it’s the pattern that’s repeating over and over.

“We are repeating a pattern that’s happened in Germany, Canada, and Australia.

“There is appetite from the government and medical regulatory bodies.

“Some obstacles remain and are completely understandable.

“The major concern from regulators is there is not enough clinical data.

“We recognise the need to increase the amount of clinical data, and that is going to ramp up massively – enormous real-world data that points to cannabis being effective and safe.” 

Do medical cannabis and cannabinoid extracts have a bad reputation because of illicit drug use? Is it hampering mainstream acceptance?

“Science has a good way of removing unfounded stigma. In the UK, there’s a lot of stigma about cannabis and psychosis that has to be investigated and overcome. By far the best way to do that is by conducting gold standard clinical trials that investigate its safety and efficacy.

“Medical cannabis is highly regulated, which should reassure the public and doctors that any potential harms of cannabis can be mitigated with oversight and sensible regulations.” 

Where is UK research into medical cannabis currently?

“We have a range of clinical trials in the UK. It is a research hub and we already have an infrastructure. We’re building a clinical research programme in the UK to look into cancer pain, as an adjunctive therapy.”

Mr Feilding-Mellen says UK researchers are studying how medical cannabis can help alleviate the addiction problems caused by pain management and opiates.

He added: “Opioid sparing is a major issue across the world. Chronic pain is where opioid abuse can start and we’re exploring whether we use cannabis to reduce the amount of opioids they use, bring them down to less dangerous levels, and then bring them off them altogether.” 

Many countries are surging ahead with medical cannabis research. How does the UK compare?

“The UK has the opportunity to become a hub for innovation in this area.

There is a strong history of cannabinoid research that’s being dragged down by legislation.

“But the UK has strong potential – a lot of leading experts are UK-based.

“I think it’s a really exciting time. There’s a strong body of people working towards it in the UK.

“It’s amazing how quickly we’re seeing change in the UK from a legislative viewpoint and in terms of public awareness.

“The UK has the chance to set the standard of cannabis regulation and develop a system that works for the patient.”