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Two cannabis based medicines approved for use by the UK's NHS

By Ramla Soni

The medicines will be used to treat epilepsy and multiple sclerosis

Two cannabis-based medicines used to treat epilepsy and multiple sclerosis have been approved for use by the National Health Service (NHS).

English doctors will be able to prescribe Epidyolex, for children with two rare types of epilepsy - Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, which can cause multiple seizures a day, while the spray Sativex has been recommended for muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis (MS).

Decisions on drug availability are devolved around the UK, but the cannabis-based medicine guidance should also apply in Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland is expected to make a similar decision next year.

Guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which decides which drugs offer value for money for the NHS, recommended the substances after examining cannabis-based products for several conditions.

NICE said people with chronic pain should not be prescribed drugs containing THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Both medicines have been grown and developed in the UK.

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

Epidyolex was approved for use in Europe in September, but in the draft guidance from NICE originally said it was not value for money, according to the BBC.

The medicine costs between £5,000 ($6,427, €5,836) and £10,000 ($12,855, €11,673) per patient each year. However, the manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals, has agreed a lower discounted price with the NHS.

Further Reading: Canopy Growth wins UK’s first bulk import licene for medicinal cannabis

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