August 18th, 2014 – Wales, UK –
Wales is the first UK nation to approve NHS funding for the drug nabiximols (Sativex), an oral spray derived from the class B drug cannabis. The medicine was the first cannabinoid to be licensed for medical use in the UK.
The program director for policy, Sally Hughes, said: “Muscle spasms and stiffness in MS can be painful and distressing and so the availability of a treatment that can potentially alleviate these symptoms is good news.
“We particularly welcome this decision considering the draft NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) clinical guideline, published in April, rejected this treatment for use on the NHS in Wales and England based on a flawed assessment of the drug’s cost effectiveness.
Sativex Shown To Ease Pain & Suffering For MS Patients
“For some time we’ve been aware of people in Wales paying privately for this licensed treatment; this decision should make life a lot easier for them.”
NHS funding for the drug was approved by Welsh health minister Professor Mark Drakeford, after the independent All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) recommended its use.
The medicine can be prescribed to treat muscle spasms in patients with MS should other forms of treatment not provide satisfactory results.
Professor Drakeford said he was ‘pleased to announce’ that the drug would be made freely available to patients in Wales who required it. He said: ‘I hope this decision will help ease the suffering of some of those who have to live with the reality of MS everyday.’
Sativex manufacturer GW Pharmaceuticals was issued the sole UK rights to legally cultivate cannabis plants for medicinal research in 1998.
Medicines can be funded by NHS Wales following guidance from the AWMSG or NICE, which both advise the Welsh government on new medicines and treatment. Recommendations from the former will be overruled by NICE advice should it subsequently publish overlapping guidance.
Tony Wiggins, chairman of the Cardiff and Vale MS Society, has trialled Sativex and called it a “tremendous step forward”.
“It’s good for spasms and other effects of MS – and it does work,” he said.
“And if a treatment works then it should be made available.”
Wales Health Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Following the appraisal of Sativex by the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group, I am pleased to announce we will be making the medicine available on the Welsh NHS to those who need it.
“I hope this decision will help ease the suffering of some of those who have to live with the reality of MS everyday.”
Director of service development at the Multiple Sclerosis Trust, Amy Bowen, said: “We are extremely pleased that people with MS in Wales will finally have better access to Sativex.
“As a charity we have campaigned over a long period for Sativex to be widely available because of the significant impact that MS spasticity can have on daily activities.
“We just hope that this recommendation will now lead to Sativex being more easily accessible in the rest of the UK.”