UK & World News
Give Cannabis Drug To MS Patients, NHS Urged
Multiple sclerosis patients in many parts of England are urging health bosses to make a cannabis-based medication available on prescription.
The NHS in Wales recently agreed to fund the drug, Sativex.
But the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which advises the NHS on the cost effectiveness of treatments, is not recommending it in England.
Jacquie Langham, from Norfolk, has been using the drug to ease the pain and spasms which are common symptoms of MS.
She says she is lucky to have a friend who pays for the treatment privately, as she could not afford it herself.
"I can't believe it's not available," she told Sky News.
"MS sufferers have no medication that really does them a whole lot of good and this is the first.
"I'm just so frustrated as are many others - and for the younger people in particular."
Tony Wiggins, who lives in Cardiff, will get the drug on prescription.
After taking part in a trial, the benefits were so great that he even broke the law, buying cannabis from dealers in order to alleviate his symptoms.
The MS Society in Wales now wants NICE to recommend†Sativex†so it is prescribed to patients in the rest of the UK.
At the moment, a handful of English health authorities do make Sativex available on prescription.
But even they may withdraw the funding if NICE's final report, due in October, suggests that they do.†
In a statement, a NICE spokesperson said: "A detailed analysis of the evidence of costs and benefits of the drug led us to conclude that Sativex should not be recommended by NICE, as the drug does not currently represent cost effectiveness for the NHS."
The only hope for English MS patients like Jacquie is that fresh evidence can be found to make NICE alter its stance before publishing its final recommendations.