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Health

“The law changed on medicinal cannabis a year ago, but I still can’t access it”

A woman from Cumbria living with multiple sclerosis (MS) has spoken out about how she is still being denied medicinal cannabis, despite the law changing a year ago today (1 November 2018) to make it legal for doctors to prescribe the medicine.

Noeline Long, age 64 and from Carlisle, was diagnosed with MS in 2013. Her symptoms include fatigue, pain and muscle spasms. A few years ago Noeline started taking Sativex – a spray that has been licensed to treat spasticity in MS. Although it’s deemed safe and effective, Sativex isn’t routinely available on the NHS in England because it’s considered too expensive, so Noeline’s only option was to pay for a private prescription.

Noeline said: “On a good day I can walk, but then I get achy pains and feel like my legs will collapse. I’ll need to rest for half an hour before I’m pain-free and can set off again. But then after 10 minutes the pain will come back.

“Sativex really helped me. It took away the pain, which meant I could sleep. The cramps and muscle spasms can keep me up all night and the pain can be unbearable. But I couldn’t afford to keep paying for Sativex, I was only able to take it for nine months.

“When the law changed I asked my doctor about whether I could get medicinal cannabis but he just laughed and said it was all a farce. He said he couldn’t prescribe it for a good few years yet because of all the red tape. I had my hopes built up and then when I got the knock-back I was gutted. I know cannabis won’t give me back the life I used to have, but getting some sort of relief would be a massive help.”

Genevieve Edwards, Director of External Affairs at the MS Society, said: “MS is relentless, painful and disabling and evidence shows cannabis can help manage pain and muscle spasms for up to 10,000 people with MS. But so far the change in law has been a failure for people with MS.   An entire year after it became legal for doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis, we still don’t know of a single person with MS who has benefited.

“Instead, thousands have been left struggling without any way to manage their pain and muscle spasms. Some are being forced to spend their disability benefits to fund private prescriptions, or even resorting to buying cannabis on the black market. Until the Government takes concrete action to improve access to medicinal cannabis, this law change will have led to nothing but an empty promise.”

In 2017 the MS Society became the first major health charity to call for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis. Since then it has been campaigning for the Government to make cannabis based medicine available to people with MS who could benefit. See more at: www.mssociety.org.uk/cannabis-for-ms

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