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Category “Medical News”

NHS England approves two cannabis-based drugs

NHS England has approved two cannabis-based drugs, which will be used to treat patients with epilepsy and multiple sclerosis in England. 

The move follows the release of new guidelines issued by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). The advisory body explored the impact of cannabis-based medicines for a number of conditions.

The news has been welcomed by several charities, but some claim that the reach should be broader. For now, only two cannabis-based medicines will be approved for NHS use in England. Both have been produced and developed in the UK.

Under new NICE guidelines, doctors in England will be able to prescribe Epidyolex for children who suffer from two severe types of epilepsy: Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Both can cause multiple seizures per day. Clinical trials showed that the drug, which contains a compound from the cannabis plant called cannabidiol (CBD), reduced seizures by up to 40% in some children. 

In September, the drug was approved for use in Europe, but there was a debate over the cost of the medication, which equated to between £5,000 and £10,00 per year per patient. After drawn-out negotiations, the manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals, agreed to lower the price and NICE reviewed its stance, agreeing that the drug represented value for money. 

The other drug that has been approved is Sativex, an oral spray that contains CBD and another cannabis compound, THC. CBD does not provide the high often associated with cannabis. This drug will be used to treat patients who suffer from muscle stiffness and spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. It will not be available for pain relief. Sativex became the UK’s first approved cannabis-based drug when it was made available to patients in Wales in 2014. It costs around £2,000 per patient per year.

Cancer charity calls for HPV vaccine to be made available for older boys

A leading cancer charity has called for the HPV vaccine to be made available for older boys and young men. 

The Teenage Cancer Trust believes that the injection should be available for older teenagers and young men, as well as 11-13 year-olds. The HPV vaccine will now be provided for teenage boys, having only been given to girls for the last 11 years. Introduced in 2008 to try and reduce cervical cancer rates, the vaccine has been provided routinely for girls aged 11-13, with extremely positive results. Campaigners believed that the vaccine should be offered to boys too on the basis that HPV strains are linked to other types of cancer, many of which affect males. 

The government has now agreed to expand the school immunisation programme to include boys aged 11-13, but the Teenage Cancer Trust believes that the scheme should be extended further to include older boys and young men. The vaccine is currently available for men and teenagers over the age of 13, but at a cost of £150. 

Representatives from the charity stated that research had indicated that 76% of older boys and young men would want the immunisation if it was available for free. Only a third would be willing to pay a fee. 

TCT chief executive, Kate Collins, suggested that the vaccine should be provided to anyone who wants it up to the age of 25. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed that boys in Year 8 will be entitled to free vaccination from the start of the school year and suggested that extending the scheme to cover older boys would have a “limited benefit” due to the herd immunity already established as a result of over 10 years of immunisation for girls. The theory is that immunising girls will help to reduce the risk of cancers linked to HPV in the future, and rates will continue to drop once the vaccination programme for younger boys launches.

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