The United Kingdom’s National Health Service advisory body, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, has approved cannabis-derived pharmaceutical drugs Sativex and Epidyolex for use by the NHS, the BBC reports. They are the first cannabis-based medicines to be approved for use by the NHS.
Epidiolex was approved for use in Europe in September, but NICE initially said it was not valued for money and did not recommend CBD for prescription on the NHS. The GW Pharmaceuticals-manufactured drug costs between £5,000 ($6,439.90) and £10,000 ($12879.75) per patient each year but the company has agreed to a discounted price with the NHS.
Sativex, a mouth spray that contains a mix of THC and CBD also manufactured by GW Pharma, has been available on the NHS in Wales since 2014 but regulators in England said it was not cost-effective at a price of £2,000 ($2575.95) a year per patient. The approval in England is for treating multiple sclerosis, specifically the muscle stiffness and spasms associated with the condition. Under the approval, doctors will not be allowed to prescribe it to treat pain.
In 2018, UK law was changed to allow specialist physicians to prescribe cannabis-based medicines, but most doctors have been unwilling to write prescriptions for the medicines because they have not been through randomized controlled trials – both Epidiolex and Sativex have gone through the trial process.
Genevieve Edwards, from the MS Society, said the organization has campaigned for access to Sativex for years and said it is “brilliant NICE has finally listened.” However, she said the guidelines don’t go far enough because no cannabis-based treatments were recommended to treat pain.
According to a recent YouGov poll conducted for the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis and Cannabis Advocacy Support Services, 2.8 percent of Britain’s adult population are using cannabis to treat chronic medical conditions but they must obtain it illegally.
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