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Health Service Approves Cannabis Based Medicines

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Two cannabis-based medicines, used to treat epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, have been approved for use by the NHS in England.

It follows new guidelines from the drugs advisory body NICE, which looked at products for several conditions.

Both medicines were developed in the UK, where they are also grown.

The first, Epidyolex , will soon be prescribed by Doctors for children with two types of severe epilepsy – Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome – which can cause multiple seizures a day.

Clinical trials have shown the oral solution, which contains cannabidiol (CBD), could reduce the number of seizures by up to 40% in some children.

Epidyolex was approved for use in Europe in September, but in draft guidance NICE initially said it was not value for money.

It costs between £5,000 and £10,000 per patient each year – but the manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals, has agreed a lower discounted price with the NHS.

The drug does not contain the main psychoactive component of cannabis, THC

The other treatment, Sativex, is a mouth spray that contains a mix of THC and CBD.

It has been approved for treating muscle stiffness and spasms, known as spasticity, in multiple sclerosis. But doctors will not be allowed to prescribe it to treat pain.

It was the first cannabis-based medicine to be licensed in the UK after clinical trials, and costs around £2,000 a year per patient.

The law was changed in November 2018 to allow specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis medicines, but this has happened in only a handful of cases.

Most doctors have been unwilling to write prescriptions for medicines because, unlike Epidyolex and Sativex, they have not been through randomised controlled trials, but we want to know what whether you think drugs like these should be readily available on the NHS?

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