By Emily Ledger
As of Monday 6th January 2020, Epilepsy patients in the UK have official access to Cannabis medication, Epidyolex. The development follows the publication of the NICE recommendations on the use of Cannabis-based medical products (CBMPs).
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recommended the use of the CBD medication for use, in conjunction with Clobazam, to treat two rare forms of Epilepsy. Lennox Gastaut and Dravet syndromes are specific forms of Epilepsy, often developed in children, but also in adults.
Following the recommendations, manufacturer GW Pharmaceuticals came to an agreement with the NHS to provide the drug at a discounted price. The Cannabis medication, Epidyolex, was fast-tracked for use in December.
GW Pharmaceuticals Chief Operating Officer, Chris Tovey, said:
“This is proof that cannabis-based medicines can successfully go through extensive randomised placebo-controlled trials and a rigorous NICE evaluation process to reach patients.”
Epidyolex has been found to significantly reduce the number of seizures experienced by patients of these forms of Epilepsy. In fact, clinical trials have shown a reduction of up to 40% in some children treated with the drug. It is believed that around 2,000 people in the UK could benefit from the medication.
The drug will be available for all Lennox Gastaut and Dravet syndrome patients above the age of two.
Medical Cannabis was effectively legalised in the UK in November 2018, with the rescheduling of the drug. However, the policy change gained widespread criticism across the country. At the end of 2019, it was estimated that only a handful of patients had received a medical Cannabis prescription. The majority of these prescriptions were provided through private clinics, at a cost to the patients.
Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said:
“Thousands of people including children will now have access to this treatment, which has the potential to make a real difference.”
In addition to Epilepsy, NICE also recommended also provided the use of Cannabis medication as a treatment for spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis; and nausea associated with chemotherapy.
Epidyolex joins Sativex and Nabilone as the only registered Cannabis medications in the UK. Both Epidyolex and Satives are manufactured by UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals.