Cannabis-based MS drug made available on NHS in Wales

Clinicians in Wales can now prescribe a cannabis-based medicine to treat muscle spasms in MS patients, after it was approved for use on the NHS for the first time.

Sativex: the MS drug is now available to patients in Wales (Photo: SPL)
Sativex: the MS drug is now available to patients in Wales (Photo: SPL)

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.

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.

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