NICE approves first two cannabis-based medicines for NHS use

Lawmakers in France one of few European countries to ban medical cannabis use has approved the budget for two years of patient experiments many hope will pave the way for a change in the law

A statement issued by GW Pharmaceuticals, a UK-based manufacturer of CBMPs, on 11 November 2019 said NICE has recommended NHS England routinely reimburse healthcare professionals for prescribing Epidyolex (cannabidiol) and Sativex (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) - both of which are produced by the company.

After the assessment of several products for various conditions, cannabis-based Epidyolex and Sativex have been accepted as viable treatments for severe epilepsy types Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, and specific symptoms for multiple sclerosis, respectively.

The campaign group End Our Pain have said the move is not far enough - leaving patients, for whom whole plant medical cannabis containing THC has "life-transforming effects", left in the lurch.

The official NICE guidelines permit the prescription of Epidyolex for the treatment of two rare forms of Epilepsy.

However, NICE did not recommend THC should be prescribed to treat chronic pain, a common symptom of MS, meaning doctors can only prescribe Sativex for spasms.

The drug does not contain the main psychoactive component of cannabis, THC. However, MPs were also told that doctors' lack of prescribing medical cannabis was due to a lack of knowledge on the topic. Between 8,000 and 9,000 people in the United Kingdom have Lennox-Gastaut or Dravet syndrome.

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As evidence develops on the efficacy and safety of cannabis-based medicines, it's crucial that families have the earliest opportunity to consider the benefits of new treatments for uncontrolled seizures with their specialist clinicians - especially when other treatments have failed. But many Global Positioning System have been reluctant to do so, citing a lack of clear guidance on prescribing and issues over funding for the drugs.

Previous years saw regular calls for clarity about medicinal cannabis within the medical community.

He added: 'Though this is disappointing, we appreciate that clinical research is vital to ensure that any treatment recommended for use in the NHS is safe and effective. "This is proof that cannabis-based medicines can successfully go through extensive randomized placebo-controlled trials and a rigorous NICE evaluation process to reach patients".

"This steerage is condemning many sufferers to having to pay for life-transforming drugs privately, to go with out or to seek out unlawful and unregulated sources".

Multiple sclerosis charities also argue the guidelines from NICE do not go far enough.

She said evidence shows cannabis-based treatments could help around 10,000 people with MS get relief from pain and spasms when other treatments have not worked. Additionally, because Sativex will be funded by local bodies - who might not have the resource they need to prescribe it - even more people could miss out.

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