Saturday, 16 August 2014

Wales becomes first British country to approve cannabis-based medicine

LONDON: Wales has become the first in the UK to allow a cannabis-based medicine under its National Health Service.

Sativex - an oral spray has been approved by the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) for people with multiple sclerosis.

It will be available on prescription to treat muscle spasms for MS patients do not respond to other medicines.

Sativex's chemical extracts - Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol/cannabidiol which are derived from the cannabis plant is indicated as treatment for symptom improvement in adult patients with moderate to severe spasticity due to MS who have not responded adequately to other anti-spasticity medication.

MS is a chronic condition that affects the central nervous system (CNS).

The course of MS is potentially highly disabling with patients typically developing multiple neurological dysfunctions, such as visual and sensory disturbances, limb weakness, gait problems and bladder and bowel symptoms.

Patients need to take up to a maximum of 12 sprays per day, until they achieve optimum symptom relief. There has to be a 15-minute gap between sprays.

Earlier this year, NICE - the body that decides what treatments should be available on the NHS in England and Wales rejected the drug in their draft clinical guidelines for MS because it was not deemed 'cost effective'. The AWMSG decision overrules the NICE guideline in Wales.

Wales' health minister Mark Drakeford said that he hoped the spray would help ease the suffering of those who have to live with the reality of the neurological condition.

The decision was welcomed by Multiple Sclerosis Trust who hoped it will prompt England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to adopt the same approach.

Sally Hughes from MS society said, "While we're delighted people with MS in Wales will be able to access this medicine, it's essential that it's available to all eligible people - regardless of where they live. The MS society has campaigned for years for this treatment to be made available on the NHS. Muscle spasms among MS patients can be painful and distressing - and a treatment that can potentially alleviate these symptoms could be life changing".

"Sativex has been licensed as safe and effective for people with MS, and for many people it's their only viable treatment option left. Despite this, NICE has rejected this medicine for use. It means people are either left with the daily battle of painful symptoms, or face financial strain as a result of funding the treatment themselves," he added.

As cannabis is a class B drug and can only be lawfully possessed under a prescription issued by a qualified health professional, passing Sativex to someone else, unless that person is lawfully entitled to possess the drug, is a criminal offence.

The lack of withdrawal symptoms suggests that dependence on the treatment is highly unlikely. In addition, Sativex did not affect cognition (thinking or memory) or induce any mental health problems at the doses used. health system,Multiple Sclerosis,cannabis-based medicine



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