Here in the U.S.A., we’re concerned about the way the Federal government seems to be going back on their promise not to prosecute individual users of medical marijuana in those states where such usage has been decriminalized. We are not alone in our fears and concerns. Recently, The Guardian shared a story which has been subsequently picked up by Cannabis Culture magazine.
Apparently, the NHS – that’s the National Health Service in the United Kingdom – has been denying multiple sclerosis patients access to a cannabis-derived drug which has already been approved by government regulators for such use.
Specifically, doctors who specialize in the care and treatment of MS patients are saying that PCTs (primary care trusts) are causing their patients’ pain to be increased because they’re refusing them the use of a drug called Sativex, which is derived from cannabis. Some of the PCT representatives argue that this is because they don’t feel the £11/day drug is worth the expense, but physicians disagree, and say it’s the only medication that really helps.
Sativex is used to relive muscle stiffnes,s or spasticity, commonly suffered by Multiple Sclerosis patients. It’s the first cannabis-derived drug to be licensed for use in the UK, and has been so since the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) approved it roughly a year ago. It comes in the form of an oral spray, and can only be prescribed by doctors whose practices concentrate on MS patients, including pain consultants and neurologists. Further, only patients who had significant negative side effects from other medications, or were not helped by other drugs, are allowed to take it.
These conditions are all fairly consistent with regard to cannabinoid drugs used around the world. The problem is that NHS officials have decided that, at least in the East Midlands, West Midlands, Suffolk, Yorkshire, and southwest England, the drug may not be used. This means that doctors are unable to prescribe a licensed drug to their patients in need.
We’ll be waiting and watching as this story unfolds, but for now, the most recent information is that twenty-five patients overseen by the Dartford and Gravesham PCT who are already on the drug will be able to continue taking it, but no new patients will be granted funding for the medication.
It’s important to remember, however, that this issue is really about the COST of healthcare, and the way decisions are made. If Sativex was not a cannabis-derived drug, the same problems might still occur.