STAR TREK legend Sir Patrick Stewart backs a UK-first research initiative into the use of cannabis-based medicines

The 76-year-old actor, best known for playing
captain Jean-Luc Picard in the iconic sci-fi series, uses treatment to help soothe his arthritis.

In a moving statement, Sir Patrick has backed a UK-first research initiative launched by Oxford University today which aims to explore the benefits of cannabinoid-based medicines for sufferers like himself.

Stewart revealed he takes cannabis based spray, pills and ointment to treat the condition, which he inherited from his mother.

He buys the medicine in Los Angeles after being given a note from his doctor which allows him to do so legally.

Stewart said: “Two years ago, in Los Angeles, I was examined by a doctor and given a note which gave me legal permission to purchase, from a registered outlet, cannabis-based products, which I was advised might help the ortho-arthritis in both my hands.

“This, it would seem, is a genetically-based condition. My mother had badly distorted and painful hands.

“I purchased an ointment, spray and edibles. The ointment, while providing some relief from the discomfort, was too greasy to use during daytime and so I only use it at night.

“It helps with sleep as the pain was reduced. The spray, however, is much more usable and I spray my fingers and particularly my thumb joints several times a day.

Captain Jean-Luc PicardBBC TWO

He is best known as Captain Jean-Luc Picard

“The spray very quickly evaporates and leaves my hands quite dry, though with a slight burning or tingling sensation, which is not unpleasant.

“I believe that the ointment and spray have significantly reduced the stiffness and pain in my hands.

“I can make fists, which was not the case before I began this treatment.”

“I have had no negative side effects from this treatment and the alternative would have been to continue taking NSAID’s, Advil, Aleve and Naproxen, which are known to be harsh on the liver and to cause acid reflux.

“As a result of this experience, I enthusiastically support the Oxford University Cannabis Research Plan.

“This is an important step forward for Britain in a field of research that has for too long been held back by prejudice, fear and ignorance. I believe this programme of research might result in benefits for people like myself as well as millions of others.”

In the UK, 8.75 million people seek treatment for osteoarthritis with an annual cost to the NHS of £5.40 for every person requiring non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (known as NSAIDs) according to a 2014 NICE report.

The research, funded by private equity firm Kingsley Capital Partners, will be carried out by Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies – a new company set up to partner with academics from the world leading university.

He uses treatment to help soothe his arthritis

Neil Mahapatra of Kingsley Capital Partners said the partnership with Oxford would “support the development of innovative new therapies to help millions of people around the world.” It comes after a report published by a cross-party group of MPs and peers called on the Government to allow sick people to grow their own cannabis under licence.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform also wants companies to be allowed to import or grow the drug, and for ministers to strip away legal controls so that it becomes less regulated than many painkillers.

The group’s chairman Baroness Meacher hailed the establishment of the Oxford research institute.

She said: “The partnership between Oxford and Kingsley shows both business and academia are in agreement that cannabis based medicines have important therapeutic benefits justifying rigorous investigation.

Patrick Stewart in a suitGETTY

Stewart buys the medicine in Los Angeles

“The limited research evidence to date and the anecdotal evidence from people left helpless by the current legal status of these treatments, has shown they can be effective.

“This research programme is good news for those sufferers and also for the British pharmaceuticals industry.

“At a time of such political and economic uncertainty, Britain remains a world leader in pioneering medical research.”

Ahmed Ahmed, Professor of Gynaecological Oncology at Oxford, said: “Cannabinoid research has started to produce exciting biological discoveries and this research programme is a timely opportunity to increase our understanding of the role of cannabinoids in health and disease.

“This field holds great promise for developing novel therapeutic opportunities for cancer patients”.

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