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Controlled drugs

NHS England to fast-track funding for Epidyolex

Patients will be able to access the cannabidiol (CBD) medicine Epidyolex from the NHS from 6 January 2019, NHS England has announced.

On 18 December 2018, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended that Epidyolex (GW Pharmaceuticals) be provided by the NHS as an adjunct therapy for two severe forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. It is to be used alongside clobazam.

In a statement published on 21 December 2019, NHS England said that, following an agreement with GW Pharmaceuticals, access to the medicine had been fast-tracked and would be available from the first week of January 2020.

A spokesperson for NHS England told The Pharmaceutical Journal that, although the NHS is usually expected to fund a medicine within three months, Epidyolex was being made available “significantly faster than usual”.

Philip Lee, chief executive at Epilepsy Action, said: “New treatment options for severe epilepsies do not come very often and many families feel they have already been waiting too long to access medicines like Epidyolex”, Lee said.

“This announcement brings much-needed hope and could be life-changing for some.”

But Lee added it “is not a silver bullet”.

“There is work to be done to collect robust high-quality evidence of the effectiveness of other cannabis-based medicines, including those containing both CBD and [tetrahydrocannabinol],” he said.

“In the meantime, more people with severe epilepsies should be given the opportunity to access cannabis-based medicines now.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20207506

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