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Cannabis drug for MS sufferers

The distribution of a controversial drug is halted in Scotland, despite showing great effect on MS patients

sativex drug cannabis scotlandSufferers of multiple sclerosis (MS), an inflammatory disease that affects the nervous system, might not be prescribed the drug Sativex as distribution has been halted in Scotland due to budget cuts and the awaited approval by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

The cannabis-based drug is orally administered by spraying it under the tongue of the patient and promises pain relief where other types of medications have failed.

However, Sativex is an expensive drug to produce and following cuts to the NHS some local authorities south of the border have deemed it as not being cost-effective, leaving many MS patients short of alternative treatments.

The use of Sativex has been controversial, despite having been deemed safe by medical authorities in July 2010. Control over the production and transportation of the drug is strict, and the medical marijuana plants used to produce it are grown at secret locations in the South of England.

The MS Society released a statement to The Journal outlining the difficulty in obtaining the drug for MS sufferers in Scotland: “Usually a clinician will only prescribe a licensed treatment if it has been approved for use by the SMC and accepted by the local health board.”

Asked about the benefits of the drug the MS Society stated: “Just under 50 per cent of people with MS who have not responded to other treatments can be expected to show a clinically significant response to Sativex after four weeks treatment.”

The Society further described the delay of the distribution of Sativex in Scotland as “disappointing” and said that: “The MS Society believes that people with MS should have access to proven treatments for their condition no matter where they live in the UK.”

Sativex is on the market in the UK, Spain, Canada and New Zealand through Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis. It is currently awaiting regulatory approval in Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Czech Republic.

By Greg Bianchi