By Emily Ledger
MS patients in the UK are still not benefitting from the rescheduling of medical Cannabis, a year later, The MS Society has said. The use of Cannabis-based medical products (CBMP) for symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis and other conditions was legalised on the 1st November 2018 – exactly one year ago.
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, however, sufferers are yet to benefit from the law change. The MS Society labelled the rescheduling “a failure”, as up to 100,000 patients have been denied access to the medicine. The charity became the first major health charity to campaign for the legalisaiton of medical Cannabis in 2017.
Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs for the charity, said:
““An entire year after it became legal for doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis, we still don’t know of a single person with MS who has benefited.”
Studies have shown that medical Cannabis can aid in the treatment of symptoms of the condition. The only licensed CBMP for the treatment of MS-related pain and spasticity is Sativex. The Cannabis medicine contains equal parts THC and CBD. However, Wales is the only jurisdiction in the UK to recommend the drug, due to cost.
The MS Society has criticised the government’s stance on the issue. The charity claims that some patients are forced to fund expensive private prescriptions using their disability benefits. Others are often resorting to sourcing Cannabis from the unregulated black market.
“Until the Government takes concrete action to improve access to medicinal cannabis, this law change will have led to nothing but an empty promise.”
Doctors from King’s College London have also criticised the current system of access to Cannabis medicines. The University has carried out research on the effects of Cannabis on a number of conditions. This includes a recently commenced study on Parkinson’s-related psychosis.
Dr. Eli Silber, a consultant neurologist at Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, claims that legalisation of medicinal Cannabis has not made it easier for him to help any of his MS patients.
Dr. Silber commented:
“The current limitations on prescribing and funding actively discourage clinicians from prescribing cannabis, leaving no flexibility for us to act in the best interest of our patients”.
This year, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published a draft report on the use of CBMPs. The report recommended that Sativex is not an effective treatment for spasticity. The finding was based on a lack of cost-effectiveness and clinical trials.