The NHS Approves Two Cannabis-Based Drugs
Two cannabis-based medicine to treat epilepsy and multiple sclerosis have been given the green light in England by the NHS. The announcement comes after the drug advisory body — the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)—reviewed medical cannabis for the treatment of various conditions.
Following the law changes made in November 2018, it is now legal in the UK for doctors to officially prescribe medical cannabis to their patients. Only a handful of them was willing to do so in the past. Many still had doubts, saying that the health effects of cannabis had not yet been tested with controlled clinical trials. The latest NHS announcement should make a change.
The first of the two NHS-approved drugs is Epidiolex — used to treat rare epilepsy conditions such as Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Estimates show that there are 3,000 people suffering from Dravet and 5,000 LGS patients in England alone who experience multiple seizures on a daily basis.
Early clinical trials show that the drug can lower the number of seizures by as much as 40%, in some cases. Epidiolex was approved for use in Europe in September, while it has been used in the US since June 2018, when it became the first cannabis-based drug approved by the FDA.
The second drug is Sativex, an oral solution that is, in fact, a combo of CBD and THC — the psychoactive compound of cannabis. Sativex has been approved as a treatment for spasticity in MS, i.e., muscle stiffness and muscle spasms. This drug has been approved for use in Wales since 2014.
Both drugs are developed and grown in the UK.
Charities and parents of children with epilepsy welcome the decision and add that it was long overdue. Lack of approval, they claim, has forced many of them to import medicine from Europe and Canada.
NICE approved both drugs, even though they did not find sufficient evidence for the use of cannabis in chronic pain treatment.