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Registered: 07/06/10
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UK: Leicestershire man hopes cannabis-based drug will ease agony of MS
    #470278 - 08/31/10 10:18 AM (7 years, 7 months ago)

Cathy Buss Health Correspondent

Leicester Mercury

Tuesday 31 Aug 2010

A man is paying hundreds of pounds for a cannabis-based drug to try and ease the agonising pain caused by multiple sclerosis.

Andrew Cooper, from Ibstock, is about to begin taking the new drug, Sativex, the first cannabis-based medicine licensed for use by MS sufferers.

However, the drug has not been approved by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) and is not routinely available on the NHS in Leicestershire.

Mr Cooper, 48, said he is so desperate to alleviate the crippling pain, which means he only gets three or four hours sleep a night, he felt no option but to fork out for a private prescription for £465 for three bottles.

Specialists doctors at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, where he has been treated for the past three months, suggested he try the new drug, which is a mouth spray.

He said: "Anything that makes my life a little better is worth a try.

"I was first diagnosed with MS nine years ago.

"Thanks to medication it wasn't too bad for the first year or two but it has got worse and over the last 12 months it has affected everything.

"I am in constant pain and nothing really takes it away."

Mr Cooper, a former fireman, said that in the past he has resorted to smoking cannabis but could not cope with the side effects.

Sativex contains two chemical extracts derived from the cannabis plant.

The drug is legal but is tightly controlled – when Mr Cooper goes on holiday abroad he will have to take documentation from the hospital with him.He is unsure how long the bottles will last him.

Mr Cooper said: "It costs about £155 a bottle, but with a private prescription you have to buy three at a time.

"If it doesn't work I will have wasted more than £400, but I am willing to try anything to help ease the pain.

"This is a new drug so I am hoping it will be effective."

He believes the drug should be given on the NHS and added: "Getting treatment for MS is a real lottery. It depends on your GP and your hospital consultant – some seem to know more than others.

"But most people with MS will go to the end of the earth to try and relieve the pain."

Dr Peter Critchley, head of neurology at Leicester's hospitals, said: "Sativex was only licensed very recently and still awaiting NICE approval.

"It hasn't been approved for use in Leicestershire so we can't prescribe it at the moment.

"New drugs are considered by the therapeutic advisory service which advises on whether drugs should be prescribed locally by studying clinical evidence. Sativex is going through this process."

"It is used to the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. However, there are other drugs which should be tried first which may be equally effective."

Officials at the primary care trusts, NHS Leicester City and NHS Leicestershire County and Rutland, said they have received no requests for funding for Sativex.

The MS Society said has received more than 60 inquiries from people across England living with MS who are struggling to obtain Sativex.

Laura Weir, head of policy and campaigns, said: "The response from people has been overwhelming and it's clear that accessing it is a problem in many parts of the country.

"Sativex should be made available for all those who would benefit."





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