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England’s inconsistent cannabis medical rules offer challenges and hope for patients

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Access to medicinal cannabis isn’t just an issue for patients in the US. For our neighbors across the pond in the UK, patients face an uphill battle to access cannabis-based medicine. 

In a much-anticipated move, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) announced this week that it will allow the administration of certain cannabis-derived drugs for serious medical conditions. 

Patients with severe epilepsy and multiple sclerosis can access cannabis-derived medication, although medical cannabis itself as we know it in the US isn’t available in the UK. 

The UK has taken a very conservative stance against medical cannabis. This has led to 1.4 million patients buying cannabis on the black market to manage their pain or medical issues. While the UK has a long way to go for embracing medical cannabis, patients can see hope on the horizon. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is a drug advisory board for the UK; it determines which drugs can be used to treat which conditions. The institute finally gave the green light for treating childhood epilepsy and multiple sclerosis with approved cannabis-derived medicines. 

NICE approved two drugs: Epidyolex and Sativex. Epidyolex uses cannabidiol, or CBD, to reduce seizures and it’s now approved for children. Some studies say it can reduce seizures by as much as 40%. Sativex is a spray medication that helps people with multiple sclerosis treat muscle stiffness. 

While patient advocates in the UK celebrated the change, many say this doesn’t go far enough. THC still isn’t allowed to be present whatsoever in children’s medication, and THC also isn’t allowed to be used as a painkiller in lieu of problematic opioids. 

These two drugs will be available to patients starting in January 2020. The cannabis industry will be waiting with bated breath to see when the UK finally embraces cannabis. 




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