A cannabis-based medicine has been approved for use on the NHS in Scotland for the first time, giving hope in the treatment of rare types of childhood epilepsy.
Cannabidiol (Epidyolex) has been accepted for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a condition which can cause frequent debilitating seizures, by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).
It has also been allowed to treat Dravet syndrome, another rare type of epilepsy, which again is characterised by severe seizures of various types.
Patients can have learning disabilities, sleep problems and usually required 24-hour care and are fully dependent through their lives.
However, Cannabidiol in combination with clobazam can reduce the frequency and severity of seizures for some patients, enabling them to have a better quality of life.
The decision means patients aged two and over can access the medicine via the NHS if their doctor recommends it.
It marks the first time that a plant-derived cannabis-based medicine has been given the go ahead in Scotland for use on the health service.
Mark MacGregor, SMC chairman, said: “We know from the powerful testimony given by patients and clinicians in our PACE meetings that our decisions on cannabidiol for both Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome will be welcomed, and hopefully provide some relief for patients and their families.”
The approval, which was confirmed on Monday, means Scottish families living with the rare types of epilepsy will have the opportunity to try a new therapeutic option.
Galia Wilson, chair and trustee of Dravet Syndrome UK, said: “The constant worry of potentially fatal seizures is both terrifying and exhausting for parents/carers – their children need 24/7 monitoring.
“Even small improvements in seizure control can mean significant benefits in quality of life, both for patients and their families.
“We’re thrilled that SMC has recognised this and welcome their approach to giving patient groups a stronger voice in decision-making, especially around rare conditions such as Dravet Syndrome.”
Health secretary Jeane Freeman added: “We welcome the decision to approve Epidyolex for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a rare type of epilepsy that presents in early childhood, and the additional support this will give families living with children suffering from this condition.
“Together with the approval of Epidyolex in combination with clobazam – which was also accepted for the treatment of Dravet syndrome – these medicines will improve the quality of life for patients and their families.”