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Cannabis-based MS drug rejected by NHS Lincolnshire

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: June 20, 2011

DRUG CONTROVERSY: Sash Bazley, left, and her husband Andy who suffers from MS.

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A NEW drug based on cannabis to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis has been labelled as "insufficient" by NHS Lincolnshire.

The drug, Sativex, has been approved by regulators to help relieve spasticity or muscle stiffness in MS patients.

It has been available unlicensed in the UK since December 2005.

But last year it became the first cannabis-based medicine to be licensed for use in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Sativex costs £11 a day and is issued as an oral spray. Only doctors specialising in MS, such as neurologists and pain consultants, are allowed to prescribe it.

According to figures revealed by the Department of Health (DoH), patients in Lincolnshire have been prescribed Sativex on 28 occasions since August last year.

But NHS Lincolnshire said these prescriptions have been issued to "around three or four" patients taking the drug before it was licensed.

The health authority also said it had rejected Sativex because it had not yielded effective enough results to match the cost.

Stephen Gibson, head of prescribing and medicines management at NHS Lincolnshire, said: "We evaluated Sativex through our effectiveness forum and we felt it was of insufficiently high quality for us to approve it for use.

"We referred that decision to the East Midlands Specialising Commission Group who reached the same conclusion.

"It is not approved for use by any of the PCTs across the health authority.

"We have said that for new patients we don't feel there is enough strong evidence to support prescribing it.

"It is also more expensive than a whole range of other options we've reviewed."

Maureen Patten, manager of the Lincoln MS Therapy Centre in Outer Circle Drive, said: "There are around three or four people our physiotherapist knows of that have been refused the drug in the past, but we don't know the reasons why. When these drugs come out we often know about them in advance through MS forums.

"There was quite a big thing a few years ago with drugs called beta interferons which were said to be the wonder-drug for people with MS – but there were strict criteria. You had to be under 55 years old and have relapsing and not progressive MS.

"It meant it wasn't available for about half of sufferers.

"It's frustrating when drugs aren't available for people. There are quite a few drugs about to deal with MS, but the very strong ones can leave very strong side-affects.

"Other treatments include physiotherapy and having a drop-in centre like ours where people can talk with others with the same condition."

Andy Bazley, 49-years-old from Lincoln, is a sufferer of MS and was diagnosed four years ago.

He said: "All these drugs go through trials and none of them are deemed 100 per cent effective. There's always going to be different side-effects for different people – it depends on the individual and their symptoms.

"My choice is to continue with the quality of life I already have rather than putting it at risk by taking some kind of toxic drug."

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  • Dan_the_man  |  August 25 2011, 3:53PM

    Not to mention if the governmemt legalised cannabis, they'd realise that way more people than they could possibly imagine smoke it! If it was legalised they could sell joints in packs of 10 or 20 just like cigarettes and stick tax on it which would bring more income to the government to cover the (unnecessary) expenses such as dole for the unemployed and all the other benefits that our taxes pay for!!! The reason weed is illegal is because it's a drug and it's harmful to us (apparently) but so is alcohol and tobacco and they're on sale everywhere. Despite popular belief, I don't think weed is addictive at all unless you smoke it with tobacco and even so it's the nicotine in the tobacco not the weed that's addictive. Yet extremely addictive drugs such as nicotine and alcohol can easily be obtained from the nearest convenience store. I would much rather buy pre rolled joints in packs of 10 or 20 (and pay a little extra if I had to) cause at least you'd know what you're getting and the government could control the strength of the weed as oppose to not knowing what you're getting from your dealer. Unfortunately, weed will never be legal because this country is **** and the people in power are selfish and stupid and don't know what they're doing.

  • hairygit  |  June 20 2011, 7:57PM

    Oh dear, yet again the powers that be refuse to accept an established fact, like it or not, cannabis has a multitude of medical uses. After all, it's a naturally growing herb/plant, got to be less harmful than the chemical concoctions that the big money multinationals develop {Thalidomide and Opren being 2 that spring to mind for all the wrong reasons!) Because there is so much money paid to the drug companies every year, it makes me wonder how many NHS bigwigs have shares in them and are lokking after thier own interests!

  • Thewise1  |  June 20 2011, 3:42PM

    Sativex is liquid cannabis, that's why there is such a reluctance to get it into the mass market. The home office are trying to con us all (or have been duped themselves), they cannot bring themselves to admit they were wrong about herbal cannabis (I mean what do the californians know? or the clueless dutch...) Once people realise exactly what Sativex is, the penny will drop. It contains all the the same ingedients that you get in herbal 'skunk' (so called because of the smelly terpines it produces) GW pharma (the people who make sativex) use northern lights (high THC) to make it. Google it, find out for yourself. They take nothing out, its liquid cannabis! Anyone who uses cannabis medincinally should be able to grow their own variety for themselves. STOP this ridiculous war on cannabis, we've much bigger and more harmful problems to worry about!

  • Elution  |  June 20 2011, 11:39AM

    May i suggest that if you need to use Cannabis for medical purposes, just grow your own. its cheap to produce yourself, much cheaper than sativex, or buying from dealers and as evidence suggests, much more effective than this drug company produced money making scam. Legaly it is wrong but morally is correct if it suits your needs. If a law is wrong you have a moral obligation to break that law until it is changed in my humble but well informed opinion especially if it means the difference between suffering in pain or not. whether legal or not people have and ALWAYS WILL use Cannabis. Its about time this ridiculous law was changed.

  • POLICYofTRUTH  |  June 20 2011, 9:30AM

    How can they complain about the cost of Sativex?! They send the beta interferons via a security van that has to be signed for as its worth so much! The interferons had to be fought (for years) by many and this drug is far,far more expensive!! When people are suffering with medical disorders ie MS, They should be able to obtain cannabis legally & not have to worry about being prosecuted. If I were in the amount of pain and discomfort a MS patient suffers, Id find my own way of obtaining it!

  • Lincoln_Fan  |  June 20 2011, 9:17AM

    This whole cannabis thing is ridiculous. This plant is surrounded by human ignorance. Legalise the stuff and, as shug1965 says, the Police would be freed up to be more useful to society.

  • howtodothis  |  June 20 2011, 8:59AM

    How ridiculous that the UK Government spent our money on testing the usefulness of whole-cannabis extract Sativex, realised that it works better than other Pharmaceutical products, allows the pharmaceutical companies to produce the medicinal solution - then the NHS service refuses to allow it for treating the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis because they don't believe it works! "to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis has been labelled as "insufficient" Yet the patients themselves, those that it was tested upon, those in other countries and those few that have been "fortunate" enough to get it here, swear that it helps them. In fact, cannabis itself has been grown and used illegally by many sufferers for many years - a few years ago Mark and Lezley Gibson and Marcus Davies were prosecuted for supplying free cannabis-laced chocolate through their group then known as THC4MS and given suspended prison sentences. They supplied literally tens of thousands of bars of chocolate to people that said they found huge benefit in them. The bars of chocolate, all clearly labelled, were made by grinding the essential cannabis heads and mixing with high quality chocolate and posted out. They could do that through donations of cannabis from illegal growers without charging anyone even a penny! The evidence of the efficacy was indisputable. Now, exactly the same chemical constituents, dissolved in alcohol, with a hint of peppermint flavouring, produced on mass is available at a cost of £11 a day but people are not going to be allowed to get it on prescription. Just who are these cloth-eared tyrants in the NHS? Stephen Gibson, head of prescribing and medicines management at NHS Lincolnshire, said: "We evaluated Sativex through our effectiveness forum and we felt it was of insufficiently high quality for us to approve it for use. "It is also more expensive than a whole range of other options we've reviewed." I bet they did not consider herbal cannabis itself, as available in The Netherlands, many US States, Spain and other countries - at a fraction of the cost! It is not cannabis that we need to get rid of, it's these petty NHS that deny their patients a medicine that they themselves know helps - the decision to refuse to allow it is indeed a sad indictment of the NHS.

  • shug1965  |  June 20 2011, 8:46AM

    Sativex is simply cannabis soaked in alcohol. Sativex is less effective than eating cannabis, especially when the cannabis is of good quality and is mixed with chocolate. Sativex is also more expensive than cannabis, especially when cannabis is home-grown not bought from some stranger down the pub. MS sufferers, along with sufferers of many other conditions, would benefit most from the outright legalisation of cannabis. This would have many additional bonuses, such as the freeing up of police and court time. We live in hope that this stupid prohibition is ended soon. Many live in pain, and NEED this stupid prohibition ended. Hopefully yours Hugh Robertson Norwich