Medical cannabis, which has been legalized by the government, cannot be approved for use in children suffering from severe epilepsy, nor in other patients, a National Health Service (NHS) watchdog has ruled last week.
More clinical trials needed, NICE says
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), there is insufficient evidence of the safety of cannabis and could, therefore, not recommend the routine use of cannabis-based medical products. NICE is instead calling for clinical trials to be conducted quickly.
It can be recalled that medical cannabis was decriminalized by then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid last November after a public campaign was launched in support of severely epileptic children who need cannabis to treat their seizures. We are talking about Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell.
However, despite the Home Office’s approval of medical cannabis, many doctors still refuse to grant prescription to sick children. Needless to say, patients are not happy about the UK’s unbelievably strict guidelines as they still find it hard to get access to the drug.
Not happy about NICE’s decision
As can be expected, the NICE’s draft recommendations have dismayed parents with epileptic children, as well as cannabis legalization advocates even more.
Why are many people dismayed over NICE’s decision? Because without NICE’s approval, only a few qualified specialist doctors would be willing to prescribe medical cannabis, making the drug even more difficult to obtain.
The good thing, however, is that NICE’s draft guidance is open for public consultation until September 5, 2019.
The draft guidance
These recommendations on medical cannabis consumption were published following a comprehensive evaluation of the drug’s clinical and cost-effectiveness.
The draft guidance considered the use of medical cannabis for people with severe treatment-resistant epilepsy, chronic pain, intractable nausea and vomiting as a side effect of chemotherapy, and spasticity. The guidance took a look at most of the cannabis-based medicinal products for treating these health conditions, including Sativex, which is used to treat spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients, and Nabilone, which is used to treat nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy.
While NICE’s draft guidance recommends the use of Nabilone as a supplemental treatment for adults suffering from chemo-induced nausea and vomiting, it does not recommend the use of Sativex. It added that medical cannabis should not be offered as a treatment to spasticity unless as a part of a clinical trial.
NHS reviews barriers to weed access
Meanwhile, NHS England also published its review of the barriers to patients’ access to medicinal cannabis. NHS agreed that more research was needed.
Advocates, however, have suggested that the NHS include evidence from the experiences of children and young adults who are already taking cannabis-based medication.