Latest Pharmacy News: NICE recommends first cannabis-based medicines for NHS use

GPs get all-clear to prescribe cannabis			
				 
   by Jane Kirby 
  Published

GPs get all-clear to prescribe cannabis by Jane Kirby Published

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended two cannabis-based medicines for NHS use.

The new guidance from NICE looked at cannabis-based products for several conditions.

For now then, like Carly Barton - the woman who was prescribed cannabis through a private doctor last December, and paid £2500 for it just to prove a point to the NHS - people with pain conditions and other rare conditions in the United Kingdom will have to wait for more cannabis-based drugs or medicinal marijuana to become available. The chair of the Dravet Syndrome UK charity, Galia Wilson, said, "We welcome the addition of CBD oral solution as a new medicine to add to the Dravet syndrome treatment armamentarium".

These medications are connected with the treatment of Lennox Gastaut syndrome (LGS) or Dravet syndrome and multiple sclerosis (MS), among other conditions. These children could suffer from multiple seizures a day and clinical trials have proved that Epidyolex use can reduce the number of seizures by 40% in some kids.

Epidyolex was approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and received marketing authorisation in September 2019 for the same indication.

It prices between £5,000 and £10,000 per patient every year - however the producer, GW Pharmaceuticals, has agreed a decrease discounted value with the NHS. The spray was Now available in Wales. Scotland may follow suit next year. They can be treated with mouth spray Sativex, which contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and pure cannabidiol (CBD). Sativex is approved to treat spasticity stemming from multiple sclerosis. "Patients are left untreated, in significant debt from the cost of private prescriptions or criminalized as they are forced to turn to the black market", Dr. Nutt argued.

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What has been the reaction?

"This is a significant moment for adults and children with the most hard to treat epilepsies", says Dr. Rhys Thomas, a consultant neurologist at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Newcastle.

"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 said.

But not everyone is happy.

One epilepsy advocacy group was not happy NICE did not recommend a drug with both CBD and THC, though.

"Pharmacists will be on the frontline of supplying CBMPs and can give advice to patients taking them as part of their treatment plan", he said.

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"This restrictive guidance is condemning many patients to having to pay for life-transforming medicine privately, to go without or to consider accessing illegal and unregulated sources", Hinton said.

How did we get to this point?

But the UK's only officially recognised cannabis clinic said that while "modest progress" had been made with the Sativex recommendation, it noted that the guidelines do not allow for more general access to medical cannabis for other conditions.

Charities and spokespersons have praised the "first step" of the NICE institute.

However, she said the guidelines did not go far enough because no cannabis-based treatments had been recommended to treat pain - a common symptom of MS. Additionally, because Sativex will be funded by local bodies - who might not have the resource they need to prescribe it - even more people could miss out.

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