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Innovative seizure-tackling medicine approved for NHS use

Following final guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), NHS professionals across England will be able to prescribe the cannabis-based medicine cannabidiol for patients with a rare, seizure-causing genetic condition called tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC).

With approximately one in every 6,000 people suffering from TSC, health leaders estimate that around 1,000 patients will benefit from the new treatment. Clinical trials have shown how cannabidiol, when used in conjunction with standard patient care methods like various antiseizure medications, can reduce the frequency of seizures by 30%.

As a result, patients and their families and carers can have more confidence when partaking in life-enriching activities like going to school or just simply leaving the house.

NHS Director of Specialised Commissioning and interim Director of Commercial Medicines, John Stewart, said: “It is great news for patients that the NHS is able to 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.”

Following the news, cannabidiol has become the fifth cannabis-based treatment to be approved by regulators for use in England, coming after medicines for those with multiple sclerosis, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, adults with nausea caused by chemotherapy, and an extreme form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome.

To qualify for cannabidiol, patients will need to have had limited or no access to two other seizure-combatting medications before clinicians will hand out a prescription.

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 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.”

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NHE May/June 2024

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