Multiple sclerosis experts in the UK say that people with the disease should be permitted to use cannabis to relieve their symptoms. The experts suggest that over nine thousand people should be allowed to use the drug.
The MS Society states that one in ten multiple sclerosis patients have pain and other symptoms that can't be eased by taking medication that is currently available on the market. The MS Society says that those people who have multiple sclerosis and who have exhausted other currently available medications with no relief should be allowed to take cannabis to treat their symptoms without the threat of legal punishment.
Supportive study findings
The MS Society released a report that suggested that there is enough proof of cannabis being effective in treating the symptoms of multiple sclerosis to suggest that the laws that ban the drug should not prevent people who have multiple sclerosis that cannot be treated effectively with other medications to use the drug.
The MS Society's request to legalize cannabis for the treatment of multiple sclerosis symptoms has been supported by several doctors, as well as the Green party and many Democrats. A spokesperson for the MS Society said that people with multiple sclerosis often have a difficult time finding medications that will work for them. In the event that they have tried all of the medications on the market with no luck, the legalization of cannabis could ease their situation by relieving their symptoms.
A request that could make history
The call comes after a consultation with top medical advisors, a careful review of research evidence, after interviewing nearly 4,000 people with multiple sclerosis. For the first time in history, the society is now requesting that the nearly 10,000 UK patients with multiple sclerosis be allowed to use cannabis to treat their symptoms legally. Legislation could make that happen.
Genevieve Edwards is the director of external affairs for the MS Society. Edwards said that the society agrees with research that cannabis should be a legal treatment option for patients with multiple sclerosis who have not found any other medications that are successful in treating their muscle spasms and pain. The society thinks that cannabis could treat both spasms and pain.
Edwards admits that there is not enough clinical evidence to support the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes conclusively. However, Edwards and the Society believe the there is enough evidence to suggest that cannabis could be beneficial for people with multiple sclerosis. The medical advisors who were consulted by the society agreed that cannabis may be able to help thousands of people who have the disease and want the government to allow those people to the drug for treatment.
Why Sativex is important
The MS Society also wants the National Health Service (NHS) to allow people with multiple sclerosis to have access to Sativex. Sativex is a drug that is based from cannabis and is available through a mouth spray. The drug is currently only available by the NHS in Wales, but the Society wants the treatment to be made available with prescription to multiple sclerosis patients all throughout the UK at affordable costs. There are currently several patients with multiple sclerosis who obtain Sativex through private markets, but they end up having to spend about £2,000 ($2353.77) a year. The MS Society says that this is too expensive for patients and wants the NHS to make the drug available with prescription at a lower cost to patients.
Edwards says that it is not fair that individuals who can only find relief from cannabis or Sativex must break the law and commit crimes in order to obtain their relief for pain and muscle spasms. Throughout Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England, thousands of individuals with the disease must make the choice to follow the law and suffer from the painful and debilitating symptoms of multiple sclerosis, or break the law in order to live comfortably. Not only is it unfair to force patients to break the law and risk legal punishment, but it can also be dangerous, says Edwards. Patients are forced to deal with some people who may be dangerous and who may not be selling them the quality that they need. If the NHS were overseeing the disbursement of the drugs, they could regulate the quality, type, and dosage that MS patients are receiving.
Norman Lamb is a health spokesman who is a Liberal Democrat. Lamb says that the current laws that make the acquisition of cannabis illegal to even those with medical needs is a large injustice. It is unfair to make people who are simply seeking relief into criminals, just because the law prevents them from legally obtaining a necessary treatment. Lamb says that even though the Liberal Democrats have received backlash from tabloids and critics, they still publicly state that the government should respond to the scientific evidence that cannabis may be a valuable treatment for those with multiple sclerosis. If the government refuses to lift the ban on the drug, nearly 10,000 people with multiple sclerosis may be facing prosecution for breaking the law.
Survey conducted by the MS Society
The MS Society surveyed thousands of people with multiple sclerosis for their views on cannabis. Of the multiple sclerosis patients who took part in the survey, 22 percent said they had resorted to trying cannabis to relieve their symptoms. However, only 7 percent admitted to still using cannabis. Of those individuals with multiple sclerosis who said they no longer used the drug, 26 percent said that they had quit because they were afraid of legal prosecution. Of those individuals who had never tried cannabis to treat their symptoms, another 26 percent said they wanted to try cannabis but were afraid of legal prosecution and wary of the danger of obtaining or using cannabis when purchased illegally.
From the James Paget hospital of Norfolk, Dr. Notcutt has been treating patients with multiple sclerosis for over 20 years. Dr. Notcutt says he talks to patients week after week who want to try cannabis to help ease their symptoms. Many are forced to commit an act of crime in order to obtain a drug on the illegal market.
From the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS trust, Dr. Rashid is a consultant neurologist who says that while cannabis should only be used as a treatment of last resort, people who have a definite medical need should not be prevented from obtaining necessary treatment legally.
Caroline Lucas of the Green party says that the fight to legalize cannabis for the treatment of multiple sclerosis has taken a huge step thanks to the new opinion of the MS Society. Lucas says that the Society's stance that cannabis could help thousands of people who have multiple sclerosis and who have not obtained relief from other methods could go a long way towards making the drug legal for medicinal use.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is an organization that offers advice and consultation to the government. The organization suggested to the NHS that Sativex should not be prescribed for spasticity due to its low score of cost-effectiveness.
The Home Office is the government department of Her Majesty's Government of the UK that is responsible for overseeing counter-terrorism, immigration, and crime policy. A spokesperson from the Home Office stated publicly that the government does not currently have any plans to make cannabis legal for medicinal use of any kind.
As it currently stands, cannabis is not recognized by the government as having any medicinal benefits at all and is still recognized as a Class B controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971.
Campbell, D. (2017, July 27). Legalise Cannabis as Treatment of Last Resort for MS, Says Charity. [Web]. In The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/27/legalise-cannabis-as-treatment-of-last-resort-for-multiple-sclerosis-says-charity