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UK: Two cannabis drugs approved for the NHS

The NHS (National Health Service) has approved the use of Epidiolex and Sativex

Thousands of patients will receive cannabis treatments after the NHS approves the use of two drugs. Children with two rare and aggressive forms of epilepsy will now have access to the drug Epidiolex, which helps reduce seizures.

Epidiolex, Sativex, NHS, National Health Service

In addition, patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) will be offered a cannabis-based spray called Sativex that is used to treat muscle stiffness and spasms.

This is the first time that drugs containing cannabis have been recommended to the NHS by the drug watchdog, NICE.

Associations welcomed the move, but said thousands more who could benefit from cannabis-based medicines were left behind.

A modification of the law in 2018 made legal the prescription of medical cannabis by the doctors.

But many are reluctant to do so, citing the lack of clear guidelines on prescribing and drug funding issues.

This has led some families to go abroad in search of drugs in order to smuggle them into the UK.

The new NICE recommendations allow cannabis products to be examined according to several criteria. For example, the public body has approved the use of Epidiolex to treat Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, two types of epilepsy that affect around 9 people in the UK.

This treatment is an oral cannabidiol (CBD) solution but does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that some parents say helps sick children the most.

NICE said more research on cannabis-based drugs is needed before THC can be approved for use in other forms of epilepsy.

Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) may use a cannabis-based vaporizer called Sativex which is used to treat muscle stiffness and spasms. This is the first time that drugs containing cannabis have been recommended by the NHS and the drug watchdog.

Simon Wigglesworth, deputy managing director of Epilepsy Action, welcomed the decision to recommend Epidiolex. He added, however, that there were thousands of people with other complex and treatment-resistant epilepsies who could potentially benefit from cannabis-based medications.

He explained: “While this is disappointing, we understand that clinical research is essential to ensure that any treatment recommended in the NHS is safe and effective. We are aware of the ongoing efforts to advance research on cannabis-based epilepsy drugs, including those that contain THC, at the same rate. "

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Nice has also recommended Sativex for treating muscle spasms in MS, a common symptom of the disease.

Genevieve Edwards, Director of External Affairs for a Multiple Sclerosis Patient Association, said: “We have been campaigning for access to Sativex for years, and it's fantastic that Nice has finally listened. our request. "

These guidelines are an important first step, but they do not go far enough. No cannabis therapy has been recommended to treat pain, a common symptom of MS.

According to her, the data shows that cannabis-based treatments may help about 10 000 people with MS get relief from pain and spasms when other treatments fail.

The families of two children, Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, both with severe epilepsy, have campaigned on several occasions to facilitate access to cannabis-based medicines in the UK.

Epidiolex and Sativex are manufactured in the UK by GW Pharma, based in Cambridge.

Reactions between hope and frustration

Chris Tovey, Chief Operating Officer of GW, said: “This is an important opportunity for UK patients and families who have waited for so many years for cannabis medicines to be rigorously tested, certified and approved by the authorities. regulations are reimbursed by the NHS. This is proof that cannabis-based medicines can be successfully subjected to large controlled trials and an evaluation process. I am extremely proud of the entire GW team for taking this important step in the country where the company was founded and where these two drugs were developed and are manufactured. "

Helen Cross, a pediatric neurology consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital, who led the UK Epidiolex trials, said it was "good news".
"Dravet and Lennox Gastaut syndromes are both complex and difficult epilepsies with limited effective treatment options, giving patients a new option, which could make a difference in care," she added. .

Galia Wilson, President of Dravet Syndrome UK, said: “Many families come to us to ask questions about the potential of cannabis-based medicines, especially cannabidiol, and we are delighted that a medicine is now available. . "
But not everyone is so enthusiastic. Many parents of children with epilepsy pay thousands of pounds a month for drugs imported from Europe and Canada that contain THC and CBD.
They have reported dramatic reductions in the number and severity of seizures in their children and are furious that NICE has not approved cannabis-based medicines for childhood epilepsy that contain both components.

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Moreover, according to these organizations, the lack of evidence on the effectiveness of these treatments means that people with chronic pain should not yet be prescribed drugs containing THC.

Millie Hinton, of the End Our Pain campaign, said NICE's new policy was "a significant missed opportunity" to prescribe medical cannabis to thousands of people with various ailments. “It is particularly distressing that there is no positive recommendation that the NHS should allow the prescription of whole plant medical cannabis containing both CBD (cannabidiol) and THC in appropriate cases. intractable infantile epilepsy, ”she said.

It is this type of whole plant extract that has transformed the lives of scores of children, including those involved in the high-profile cases of the past year that led to the legalization of medical cannabis.

Millie Hinton, of the End Our Pain campaign, said NICE's new policy was "a significant missed opportunity" to prescribe medical cannabis to thousands of people with various ailments. “It is particularly distressing that there is no positive recommendation that the NHS should allow the prescription of whole plant medical cannabis containing both CBD (cannabidiol) and THC in appropriate cases. intractable infantile epilepsy, ”she said.

It is this type of whole plant extract that has transformed the lives of scores of children, including those involved in the high-profile cases of the past year that led to the legalization of medical cannabis.

A number of families met NICE senior representatives in person just a few weeks ago.

They explained verbally that they were paying thousands of pounds every month for access to whole plant extracts of medical cannabis, and that their children had dramatic reductions in seizure rates and equally dramatic improvements in health. their quality of life.

source: www.bbc.com

Tags : Epidiolex"Sativex"UK
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