Global cannabis powerhouse GW Pharmaceuticals has been successful in its talks with the U.K. health authorities and NHS patients can now access its drugs for two types of epilepsy and spasticity.
This should allow over 10,000 patients easier access to GW’s Sativex and Epidyolex cannabis medicines through the country’s National Health Service (NHS). The decision has been welcomed by U.K. firm GW, charities and campaigners whilst others say its a missed opportunity as the new recommendations ‘have not gone far enough’.
In August, the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) interim report into the cost-effectiveness of Cannabis Based Medicinal Products (CBMPs) was unveiled.
It ruled GW’s Epidyolex and Sativex too expensive, but following months of talks GW Pharmaceuticals has learnt both drugs have now been approved for use by the NHS in England. Experts estimate the cost of Epidyolex at around £20,000 to £30,000 a year and GW’s chief operating officer Chris Tovey said, at the time, it was in discussions with NICE over pricing.
Responding to the latest news in a company press release, he said: “This is a momentous occasion for UK patients and families..(and)… proof that cannabis-based medicines can successfully go through extensive randomised placebo-controlled trials and a rigorous NICE evaluation process to reach patients.”
Doctors will now be able to prescribe Epidyolex, for children with two types of severe epilepsy – Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. An estimated 3,000 people with Dravet and 5,000 with Lennox Gastaut syndrome in England will benefit.
Sativex, a mouth spray that contains a mix of THC and CBD, has been approved for treating muscle stiffness and spasms, known as spasticity, in multiple sclerosis. However doctors will not be allowed to prescribe it to treat pain.
Prof Helen Cross, a consultant in pediatric neurology at Great Ormond Street Hospital, who led UK trials of Epidyolex, said it was ‘great news’. However the campaign group, End Our Pain, said the new guidelines are a massive missed opportunity.
The BBC report spokeswoman Millie Hinton saying: “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.”
Genevieve Edwards, from the MS Society, said they had been campaigning for access to Sativex for years and ‘it was brilliant NICE has finally listened’. But, she hit out at the lack of recommendations on pain saying it is a common symptom of MS.
The NICE guide guidelines found a lack of evidence regarding the use of cannabis drugs in the management of chronic pain.
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