The first platform to facilitate the licenced importation of medical cannabis into Europe has formally launched in the UK. Astral Health will act as a gateway to the European cannabis market, providing a simple and efficient system for the licenced import and distribution of approved medical cannabis products. German, Italian, French and Spanish market announcements will follow over the coming weeks.
The company will provide European patients living with a range of chronic and debilitating conditions with life-changing access to the best medical cannabis products available by offering a streamlined end-to-end system for bringing products into the market. Its services include support on market access, approvals and navigating the regulatory system, as well as education, training and intelligence.
The launch of the end-to-end platform follows the formation of a new UK joint venture between ECH and Miller & Miller Chemicals Ltd. The agreement formalises their existing working relationship as experts in this field and is demonstrative of their shared commitment to providing better access for patients.
ECH recently opened The Medical Cannabis Clinics, Britain’s first chain of specialist medical cannabis clinics and achieved a historic milestone by facilitating the importation of the UK’s first bulk shipment of cannabis-based medicine since the Home Office decision to legalise it for prescription last November. Despite legalisation, only a handful of prescriptions for medical cannabis have been written to date – with the vast majority originating through The Medical Cannabis Clinics.
Miller & Miller are the market experts in medical cannabis access, with a patient-centric approach based on ethical principles. Working in close contact with ECH’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Mike Barnes, they fulfilled the first medical cannabis prescription in the UK for patient Carly Barton in December and the landmark prescription for seven year-old epilepsy sufferer Alfie Dingley, which was written by Prof Barnes.
This close partnership between the two companies means that Astral, which will provide a full suite of services to those in the medical cannabis sector, benefits from significant expertise around logistics and distribution, while building on Miller & Miller and ECH’s market-leading knowledge of the medical cannabis market and the regulatory approvals process in key markets.
Former Almirall and GW Pharma distributor Robert Whitehouse has a wealth of experience bringing cutting edge medicines into new European jurisdictions, including market access experience, intricate knowledge of the regulatory environment and extensive market development expertise. His broad experience includes working on the Europe-wide commercialisation of various pharmaceuticals products (including the pharmaceutical cannabinoid drug Sativex by GW Pharma) and making multiple submissions to NICE and other European regulatory bodies. He led negotiations over pricing with the UK’s Department of Health and with the CPU and NCPE in Ireland over Skilarence and Sativex ahead of their introduction to the public health systems.
Additional high level advisory-level support will also come from ECH’s wider team, including Professor Mike Barnes, one of the world’s foremost expert in medical cannabis, who is leading on regulatory developments in a number of jurisdictions; and from Hannah Deacon, the UK’s highest-profile Patient Advocate, whose campaign on behalf of her young son Alfie Dingley, changed the law in the UK.
ECH, the group of companies at the forefront of the medical cannabis industry, already has a wide network in place ready to utilise this platform and support its growth. This includes working with a number of licensed producers of EU GMP certified pharma grade cannabis products ready to import across Europe. The launch of Astral Health will further facilitate market access and transform Europe’s growing medical cannabis infrastructure.
Dean Friday, ECH CFO & Director, said: “The launch of Astral Health is a pioneering step forward that will support increased market access to medical cannabis across Europe. The legalisation of prescription cannabis in the UK has given people with chronic illnesses hope; the next step is to ensure the availability of this medication to those who need it. By facilitating the licensed import of approved medical cannabis products on an ongoing contractual basis through Astral Health, that’s what we are working to achieve.”
John Miller of Miller & Miller, said: “I am delighted to formalise our relationship with ECH to launch this important new platform, which will help patients access the best medical cannabis products on the market by streamlining the process for bringing them into different countries. Astral Health is a key step to transforming the medical cannabis landscape around Europe.”
Access to medical cannabis products will have benefits for patients across Europe suffering a variety of chronic and life-altering conditions. As an independent platform with a growing network of relationships with global cannabis producers, Astral Health will provide a unique channel to boost access to affordable healthcare across Europe. The establishment of the new venture comes as the regulatory outlook in Europe and beyond continues to shift. Last month saw the European Parliament vote in favour of a non-binding resolution seeking to encourage European Union countries to increase access to medical cannabis, and the World Health Organisation has also called for cannabis to be removed from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
ECH is an unrivalled group of companies at the forefront of the medical cannabis industry. It provides venture capital, exceptional talent and operational excellence to a portfolio that includes market intelligence firm Prohibition Partners, Europe’s leading medical cannabis conference Cannabis Europa, CBD brand Nooro, online learning platform The Academy of Medical Cannabis and UK private clinic chain The Medical Cannabis Clinics. These holdings provide ECH with a fundamental anchor in the cannabis industry while helping to shape its future.