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NHS to fast track cannabis-based treatment for epilepsy

Published on 23/12/19 at 10:56am

The NHS has fast-tracked the drug Epidyolex, a cannabidiol (CBD), to be available for epilepsy treatment through the NHS in England, starting on 6 January 2020.

The drug had been recommend for use in treating two types of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, back in November.

Doctors will be able to prescribe the drug Epidyolex with clobazam for eligible children with this disease. Clinical trials have shown this treatment could reduce seizures of up to 40% in some children.

Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive, said: “Living with or caring for someone with severe epilepsy is exceptionally challenging, especially as there are so few treatments available for the rare forms of the condition. Thousands of people including children will now have access to this treatment, which has the potential to make a real difference.”

NHS England’s agreement with GW Pharma has allowed NICE to recommend the treatment and fast track it for the start of 2020.

However there has been some criticism, namely the lack of approval for other drugs containing both CBD and also Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Millie Hinton, Director of the campaign group End Our Pain, said: “While fast-tracking access to a CBD-only product is a step in the right direction for some desperate families, for those that need the products containing both CBD and THC it's another false dawn and missed opportunity. These families need immediate action to secure NHS prescriptions for the CBD and THC whole plant medical cannabis products.”

Currently, treatments using CBD must only have a THC content of 0.2%, and provisions have to be made so it cannot be easily seperated from the oil.

Conor Kavanagh

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