The NHS has announced that they will prescribe cannabis medicine to patients with a rare, seizure-causing genetic disorder in England.
Around one in every 6,000 people suffer from tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) that causes seizures, which can severely affect their quality of life from a very young age and their families and carers. The NHS plans to offer cannabis medicine to around 1,000 patients suffering from this condition.
Currently, cannabis medicine, also known as cannabidiol, is prescribed to very few people in England. Individuals with rare, severe forms of epilepsy, adults with vomiting caused by chemotherapy, and people with muscle stiffness caused by multiple sclerosis may be eligible for prescription cannabidiol in England.
Expanding the cannabis medicine offering
Clinical trials have shown that cannabis medicine called Epidyolex®, when used alongside standard patient care such as typical anti-seizure medications, reduces the frequency of seizures by almost a third (30%), increasing the number of days patients can go without a seizure compared with placebo, and lowering the risk of sudden death.
The reduced number of severe seizures means that patients and families feel more confident when leaving the house and better-enabling activities such as attending school.
This is the fifth indication where a cannabis medicine has been approved by regulators in England.
NHS Director of Specialised Commissioning and interim Director of Commercial Medicines, John Stewart, said: “It is great news for patients that the NHS can offer this latest licensed cannabis treatment, which in this instance can help reduce the seizure frequency for those living with a serious genetic condition and significantly improve their quality of life.
“The NHS is committed to making innovative treatments available to patients as quickly as possible, at a fair price to taxpayers, following regulatory approval that provides patients with the knowledge that new treatments are safe and manufactured in a quality controlled environment.”
New hope for TSC patients
To qualify for cannabis medicine, patients with TSC will need to have had limited or no success with two other anti-seizure medications, before a specialist consultant will decide if it is clinically appropriate.
Dr Pooja Takhar, Joint Chief Executive of the Tuberous Sclerosis Association, said: “We’re thrilled that people with TSC in England will now have access to cannabidiol, a potentially life-changing medicine for the eight in 10 people in the UK who have TSC and also difficult to treat TSC-related epilepsy.
“Epilepsy can have a massive impact on the overall quality of life for individuals and entire families, meaning that this approval could have a huge benefit to many people with TSC-related epilepsy. We worked tirelessly to make sure that NICE came to the right decision. Although this is a big victory, our work doesn’t stop, and we continue to advocate and campaign for the TSC community in all areas.”