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U.K. U-Turn Means 10,000 Patients May Get Cannabis Medicine

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Written by Peter McCusker
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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. 


Epidyolex Over-Priced?

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.

‘Great News’

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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About the author

Peter McCusker

Peter McCusker is an experienced news and business editor, who believes it’s time to fully embrace the multiple, proven, medical benefits of the cannabis plant.

1 Comment

  • This is a classic example of “damage limitation” on the part of GW, NICE and the UK Government. The price to both private patients and the NHS and ultimately, the UK taxpayer is horrendous ! It fails to address the more serious problem of people with debilitating diseases, being harassed, arrested and hauled before the courts, simply for growing their own cannabis to treat themselves. Public opinion and bad press have obviously forced all three to arrive at a deal. GW are now free to exploit their products, NICE scores points for “approving” MS sufferers to have access to Sativex and the UK government can now say that they have finally dealt with the issue of allowing cannabis-based medicines to be available on the NHS. This has all been done to simply prevent people from growing their own and treating themselves, which neither the government, NICE or GW want. It is interesting to note, that the same trials that were conducted by GW to get Sativex approved, were replicated by others in Israel and California and the results were the same, the only difference being that GW’s trials were based on Sativex, while others were carried out using pure, natural cannabis plants. We are all encouraged to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables and yet, when it comes to medicines, it appears that pharmaceutical preparations are being thrust down our throats, while those who wish to use natural plant remedies will continue to be prosecuted. The whole question of how GW obtained their license in the first place, needs to be looked at, we need more transparency, because as it is, things simply do not add up.

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