The guideline recommends that, providing the local NHS health authority is willing to pay for continued treatment, a 4-week trial of Sativex can be offered to people with moderate to severe MS-related spasticity which has not been improved by other treatments. At the end of the trial, if their spasticity-related symptoms have improved by at least 20%, they can continue taking Sativex.
The MS Trust is extremely pleased that people with MS in England will have better access to Sativex. As a charity, we have campaigned over a long period for Sativex to be widely available and we are delighted that NICE has listened to our calls for a fair assessment of its cost effectiveness. We know that access to this drug will greatly improve quality of life for many in the MS community. At the same time, we also recognise that some local health authorities will not be able to fund continued treatment with Sativex. The challenge ahead is to ensure that everyone eligible can access this treatment.
- David Martin, Chief Executive Officer, MS Trust
Spasticity and spasms are two of the symptoms Dave experiences. When Dave has a full body spasm, it almost looks like somebody has shot 50,000 volts through him. His body just stiffens up like an ironing board and then he starts violently shaking. He often gets them at night which means he can’t get a good night’s sleep. The sound of his bed shaking at night can be so violent it keeps me up too.
Dave has tried different treatments for spasms and spasticity, but nothing worked for him. But then he was prescribed Sativex and it has massively, massively improved his quality of life. It’s not a miracle cure, but it has allowed him to get a good night’s sleep. It doesn’t work for everybody, but I do believe that anybody with MS who suffers from spasms and spasticity and has tried all the first line treatments, should have the opportunity to at least try it and see if it works for them.
- Jen, Dave’s wife
Sativex is a mouth spray prepared from cannabis plants and contains two chemicals - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) - in equal proportions. The number of sprays is gradually increased each day until a dose is reached which relieves muscle stiffness but with the fewest side effects.
Sativex has been studied extensively in clinical trials and is licensed in the UK as an add-on treatment for spasticity where other drugs have failed. It can only be prescribed by specialist doctors with experience of treating MS spasticity – consultant neurologists, consultant rehabilitation specialists and consultant pain specialists. For those who respond to Sativex, ongoing prescriptions can be managed by a GP.
Although Sativex can be prescribed, it is not considered to be a cost-effective treatment for the NHS in Scotland or Northern Ireland. In Wales, it is considered cost-effective and is approved as an NHS treatment, although availability is still limited.
About the Guideline
In November 2018, the legal status of cannabis was amended to allow specialist clinicians to legally prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products to people with an exceptional clinical need.
To support this change, NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) has reviewed evidence for the benefits and costs of cannabis-based medicinal products. The guideline gives guidance for health professionals and the public in England on prescribing cannabis-based medicines for intractable nausea and vomiting, chronic pain, spasticity and severe treatment-resistant epilepsy.
The guideline does not support the use of cannabis-based medicinal products for chronic pain but recommends further research to evaluate the effect of cannabidiol as an add-on to standard treatments for nerve pain.
"Starting a podcast in lockdown helped us take ownership of the situation"
23 Apr 2021 - 00:00
Comedian, Jeanette and Poet, Lytisha, talk about how creating their own podcast, about life with MS, led to lots of laughs, feelings of empowerment and a sense of community during lockdown.
Twelve year old Lacey hasn't been able to hug her dad for a year
23 Apr 2021 - 00:00
Before lockdown Lacey visited her dad every other weekend, but Covid restrictions have meant she’s not been able to visit her dad in his care home and give him a hug since March 2020.
'This is my normal now. I rather like it.' Living with PPMS in lockdown
23 Apr 2021 - 00:00
John Peters tells us how his working life changed during lockdown and how he’ll be quite happy not to go back to ‘normal’.