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This Morning doctor explains multiple sclerosis symptoms
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The 66-year-old was diagnosed with secondary progressive MS in 2003 and knows how debilitating the effects can be. Writing in the Daily Express today, Janis says: “While I’ve been fortunate to be able to manage my MS through physiotherapy and yoga over the years, I’m all too aware that many others in the MS community aren’t able to treat their symptoms in this way.” Sativex is a cannabis-based mouth spray that can reduce painful muscle stiffness and spasms, safe cold meds on coumadin known as spasticity.
In 2019, official medicines adviser The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommended it for patients in England with moderate to severe spasticity for whom other treatments have not worked.
Around 4,800 people are thought to be eligible to trial the drug, with three quarters of those expected to benefit.
But MS Society research has found only 49 out of 106 local NHS clinical commissioning groups are funding it, which leaves some patients unable to get a prescription, based purely on where they live.
Janis, who is an ambassador for the MS Society, said she was “appalled” to hear that thousands may be missing out.
She added: “I’m standing alongside the MS Society and the Express to call for an end to the cruel postcode lottery. Having MS is hard enough, and everyone deserves the right to a treatment.”
The crusade also won the support of MPs last night on the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for MS.
Its chair Simon Hoare, MP for North Dorset, said: “It’s deeply concerning to learn that thousands of people with MS are being denied access to Sativex.
“Over the past few years, the APPG for MS has been calling for Sativex to be made available to people with MS.
“When Nice approved the routine use of Sativex, we were optimistic that everyone who could benefit would be able to access the treatment.
“While I’m pleased that my constituents in North Dorset are among those able to benefit, it’s unfair that so many people with MS across England are being denied the same access. I wholeheartedly support the MS Society and Daily Express’s joint campaign, and urge health bodies to end the postcode lottery.”
Lord Dubs, vice chair of the APPG for MS, said: “My son has MS, and so I understand how important effective treatments can be. Everyone with MS should be able to access the treatment they need, but it is clear that people with MS are facing an unacceptable postcode lottery.
“This must end, and so I’m proud to join with the MS Society and the Daily Express to call for urgent change.”
Nick Moberly, chief executive of the MS Society, promised that their crusade would not stop until everyone who meets the criteria can have access to Sativex.
He added: “Over the past 24 hours we have been heartened to receive an outpouring of support for our campaign to end the cruel Sativex postcode lottery.
“We are delighted to see members of the APPG on MS lending their voice to the campaign, and as momentum continues to build we’re hopeful that our efforts will lead to real change.
“Living with MS can be relentless, painful and disabling and everyone deserves access to effective treatments.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We sympathise with every patient and family living with hard-to-treat conditions.
“The decision on whether to prescribe must be taken by a specialist clinician on a case-by-case basis. Funding of this medicine is subject to local NHS decisions.”
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