It was announced yesterday that two cannabis-based medicines have been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for use on the NHS in England to be prescribed to treat patients with epilepsy or MS (multiple sclerosis).

Epidyolex is a drug used to treat children with sever types of epilepsy that cause multiple seizures everyday – Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Doctors will be able to now prescribe the drug to patients in England. This will transform the lives of some children as it has been seen in clinical trials to substantially reduce the number of seizures a child will experience each day.

This drug only contains cannabidiol (CBD) and not the psychoactive component of cannabis, THC.

The second medicine that has been approved for use in England is Sativex. This drug contains a mix of CBD and THC and it is produced as a mouth spray. It is used to treat muscle spasms and stiffness in patients who have MS. However, it has been stated clearly that it cannot be prescribed for the treatment of pain.

The NICE guidelines should apply in Wales and Northern Ireland, and it’s thought Scotland may follow suit next year.

While this may seem like a positive step forward in helping patients with epilepsy and MS, many feel these approvals of these cannabis-based medicines do not go far enough. There have been many reports of parents sourcing medication from abroad and putting themselves in financial hardship and at a legal risk in order to get cannabis-based medication that they know works for their children.

Millie Hinton, from the campaign End Our Pain, told the Guardian: “It is particularly devastating that there is no positive recommendation that the NHS should allow prescribing of whole-plant medical cannabis containing both CBD (cannabidiol) and THC in appropriate cases of intractable childhood epilepsy.

“It is this kind of whole plant extract that has been shown to be life-transforming for a significant number of children, including these involved in the high-profile cases of last year which led to medical cannabis being legalised.”

You can find out more about the End Our Pain campaign here.

You can find out more about the availability for MS patients here.

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