A multiple sclerosis patient has hit out at a "postcode lottery" in treatments for the condition as she battles to get funding for the UK's first licensed cannabis-based medication.
Full report by Charlotte Cross here:
Yvette Hodges, aged 39, has been recommended for Sativex by her neurologist as an add-on treatment to reduce the pain caused by severe spasticity in her legs, which makes walking almost impossible.
She has to use crutches around the house, and a wheelchair when outside, as she is in danger of falling.
She is currently on high levels of oral morphine to try to tackle the pain, but is keen to wean herself off the highly addictive medication as soon as possible - particularly if there is an alternative available.
But the Worcestershire Area Prescribing Committee, responsible for commissioning drugs, has refused her the treatment, saying they need more evidence that it's value for money.
Sativex is an oral spray, and is the UK's first licensed cannabis-based medication.
Studies have found around 48 per cent of people who use it show good to significant improvement (Source: MS Society) - but each local NHS trust can currently decide for themselves whether to provide it or not.
And with anecdotal evidence suggesting high levels of people with MS turn to illegal cannabis to help tackle the pain, campaigners are now calling on the health service to make it more widely available.
Cannabis itself has been used as a medicinal treatment for hundreds of years, but is still illegal in the UK in its raw form.
Yvette said she herself is aware of a number of people who self-medicate with cannabis, through various support groups and networks online.
It's a cause which has won the support of the MS Society, which launched its Treat Me Right campaign earlier this year to call on health bosses to review prescribing levels for people diagnosed with MS.
Nick Rijke, director of policy and research for the charity, urged the government to act on its promises and help make the drug more widely available.
NHS Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group spokesman Gary Hammersley said the Worcestershire Area Prescribing Committee had considered the evidence relating to Sativex for use of the treatment and the cost-effectiveness for patients.
MS is not the only condition for which cannabis-derived medication is believed to have a positive effect, and Cancer Research UK is among those charities which have begun to fund extensive research into how it could be used to treat various types of cancer.
Dr Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK’s science communications manager, said:
What is MS?
- Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition in which the coating around nerve fibres, called myelin, is damaged when the body's immune system begins attacking it
- It affects around 100,000 people in the UK
- Around three times as many women have MS as men
- Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, but it can affect older and younger people too
- The cause is not known and there is no known cure
Symptoms commonly include:
- Vision problems
- Balance problems and dizziness
- Bladder problems
- Spasms and spasticity