Two cannabis-based medicines have been approved for use by the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom to help the survivors of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis (MS).

The latest guidance that was released by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended spray 'Sativex' for easing muscle spasms in MS and Epidyolex to help people with two rare types of epilepsy - Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

The drug advisory estimated that there are around 5000 kids with Lennox Gastaut syndrome and 3000 Dravet syndrome survivors in England. These children could suffer from multiple seizures a day and clinical trials have proved that Epidyolex use can reduce the number of seizures by 40% in some kids.

So, the prescription of Epidyolex, which is an oral solution that contains cannabidiol (CBD), can help thousands of children with the two rare types of epilepsy.

Meanwhile, NICE recommended the prescription of Sativex for treating muscle spasms and stiffness in MS. According to the drug advisory body, an estimate of 10,000 MS survivors are there in the country. They can be treated with mouth spray Sativex, which contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and pure cannabidiol (CBD).

The latest guidance by NICE for helping the survivors of MS and epilepsy were released after looking at the effectiveness of cannabis-based drugs for various conditions.

While many of the campaigners welcomed the new guidance of NICE, some suggested that this recommendation should be extended to help thousands of people who can benefit from cannabis-based medicines.

“Dravet and Lennox Gastaut syndromes are both complex difficult epilepsies with limited effective treatment options and this gives patients another option… that could make a difference to care,” BBC quoted Helen Cross, who led the Epidyolex trials in the U.K. She is a consultant in pediatric neurology at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The chairwoman of Dravet Syndrome in the U.K. named Galia Wilson also said they are “thrilled” to know that cannabis-based medicines can now be available on the NHS.

However, a campaign group called End Our Pain described the new guidance by NICE as a “massive missed opportunity.” According to them, the recommendations could have been extended to help thousands of people who could benefit from cannabis-based drugs.

“It is this kind of whole plant extract that has been shown to be life-transforming for a significant number of children. This guidance is condemning many patients to having to pay for life-transforming medicine privately, to go without or to find illegal and unregulated sources,” The Sun quoted Millie Hinton, who is a spokesperson of the campaign group.

Last year, it was made legal for specialized doctors to prescribe medical cannabis. But many of the doctors refused to do so, citing cost concern and a lack of guidance. This, in turn, forced many of the families to buy the drugs from abroad and bring them into the U.K. illegally.

Lawmakers in France, one of few European countries to ban medical cannabis use, has approved the budget for two years of patient experiments many hope will pave the way for a change in the law Lawmakers in France, one of few European countries to ban medical cannabis use, has approved the budget for two years of patient experiments many hope will pave the way for a change in the law Photo: AFP / Pablo PORCIUNCULA BRUNE