NICE approve two cannabis-based medicines for NHS

By - Integrated Care Journal

NICE approve two cannabis-based medicines for NHS

The National Institue of Care Excellence (NICE) has approved the use of two cannabis-based medicines to treat epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. This is the first time that NICE has recommended a plant-derived cannabis-based medicine for use in the NHS.

Epidyolex (cannabidiol), which does not contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, is an oral solution that doctors can prescribe to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) or Dravet Syndrome. Meanwhile, Sativex, an oral spray containing a mix of THC and cannabinol (CBD), is used to treat people affected by spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. Sativex is already available in over 25 countries around the world.

Both Simon Wigglesworth, Deputy Chief Executive at Epilepsy Action, and Galia Wilson, Chair of Dravet Syndrome UK, welcomed the move and the positive impact it could have on patients and their families. However, some campaigners have said it is not enough. According to them, the new guidelines fail to include indications for enough conditions, meaning thousands of people who could potentially benefit from cannabis-derived medicines are not able to.

Millie Hinton from the campaign group End Our Pain said the guidelines were “a massive missed opportunity." She added, “it is particularly devastating that there is no positive recommendation that the NHS should allow prescribing of whole plant medical cannabis containing both CBD and THC in appropriate cases of intractable childhood epilepsy. ” 

Chris Tovey of GW Pharmaceuticals said that the drugs represent a “momentous occasion” for UK patients and families who have waited for so many years for cannabis-based medicines to be reimbursed by the NHS. “This is proof that cannabis-based medicines can successfully go through extensive randomised placebo-controlled trials and a rigorous NICE evaluation process to reach patients,” he added.

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