NHS to fast-track access to cannabis-based medicine for children with severe epilepsy

Thousands of people, including children with severe epilepsy will have access to a potentially life changing, seizure preventing cannabis-based treatment on the NHS from the New Year.

Doctors will be able to prescribe Epidyolex with clobazam for eligible children with two types of severe epilepsy which can cause multiple seizures a day – Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

Following an NHS England agreement with GW Pharma, NICE has been able to recommend the treatment, with access fast tracked and available from 6 January.

Clinical trials have shown the treatment could reduce the number of seizures by up to 40% in some children when used in combination with clobazam. Around 2,000 people could benefit from this new treatment every year.

Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “The NHS is committed, through the Long Term Plan, to improving the lives of all those affected by rare diseases.

“Living with or caring for someone with severe epilepsy is exceptionally challenging, especially as there are so few treatments available for the rare forms of the condition.

“Thousands of people including children will now have access to this treatment, which has the potential to make a real difference.”

NHS England published earlier this year a review aimed at assessing the barriers to prescribing cannabis-based medicinal products where it is safe and clinically appropriate. Work has started with the Department of Health and Social Care and other partners to implement the recommendations – and a letter to the NHS to clarify the procedure for prescribing unlicensed cannabis-based products where there is an unmet need and it is clinically appropriate will be issued shortly.