Your Sativex questions answered

You’ve sent us lots of great questions about our Approved but Denied campaign for better access to Sativex. In this blog we tackle some of your most frequent questions.

What is Sativex? 

Sativex is a cannabis-based medicine. It’s used to treat the common MS symptom of muscle stiffness and spasms, known as ‘spasticity’. Spasticity affects up to 80% of people with MS at some time and can be a very challenging symptom, especially if it’s not managed well. 

Find out more about Sativex

What does it mean to be eligible for Sativex?

Sativex is licensed as an 'add-on' treatment for moderate to severe spasticity in MS, when other treatments haven’t worked well enough.  

This means you will only be prescribed Sativex if you haven’t had enough response to other treatments for spasticity. Or if your other treatments have too many side effects. Sativex can be used as well as your current anti-spasticity medication. 

It’s important to remember that Sativex is available as part of a range of options to manage MS spasticity. Many people find their initial treatment options for spasticity, like baclofen or gabapentin, are enough to manage their symptoms.

But if these initial treatments for spasticity haven’t worked well enough, your clinician may suggest Sativex. They'll assess your level of spasticity and your individual case, as there may be other reasons this medicine isn’t suitable for you. 

If you're prescribed Sativex, you’ll be given a four-week trial of the medicine at first. If there’s no clear improvement in your symptoms, the treatment won't continue. 

Your first prescription of Sativex must be from a specialist doctor with experience of treating MS spasticity. But later, you may get your Sativex prescription from your GP under a 'shared care' agreement.   

Read more about shared care agreements on the Neurology Academy website

Is Sativex approved for use where I live? 

Sativex was licensed for MS in 2010, but has different availability in different parts of the UK. That’s because there are different assessment processes in each nation. 

Sativex in England 

In 2019, NICE recommended that Sativex be made available on the NHS in England for people with MS with moderate to severe spasticity. This is to be offered when other treatments haven’t worked. You can read more about Sativex in England in the NICE cannabis-based medicinal products guidelines

Individual health bodies exist in England, which are called Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). And, with this type of NICE recommendation, they can still make their own decisions about funding. This has led to Sativex not being available for eligible patients everywhere in England. 

Our Approved but Denied campaign called for all health bodies in England to fund this treatment for eligible patients. 

Find out if Sativex is funded for eligible patients in your area

If it's not funded in your area, you'll be able to send an email to your local health body (Integrated Care Board) to ask them to provide it.

Sativex in Wales 

Sativex has been approved for use on the NHS in Wales since 2014. 

Our monitoring suggests people with MS who meet the criteria are being offered the treatment after discussing with their consultant. 

Sativex in Northern Ireland 

Sativex was approved for use in April 2021. 

Our monitoring suggests people with MS who meet the criteria are being offered the treatment after discussing with their consultant. 

Sativex in Scotland 

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) announced in September 2022 that Sativex was approved for us in NHS patients who experience moderate to severe spasticity due to MS, where other treatments haven’t worked. 

If you’d like to share your experience of trying to access Sativex with us, please email [email protected]

I’ve been told  I can’t get Sativex where I live even though your tool says I can 

Sativex is now available in many areas. But some ICSs may be struggling to provide resources needed to prescribe it. Resources could be things like extra time and staff to set up spasticity clinics. Your health care provider may be working hard to prescribe Sativex to eligible people with MS, but struggling with NHS workforce issues.  

In this case we’d advise you write to your local MP. You can ask them to do more to support your health care provider to provide the care people with MS need. We can send you template emails or letters to help you do this. Email us at [email protected] if this would be useful. 

In rarer cases, your healthcare professional may not know Sativex is approved in their area yet. Our Sativex information page has the latest information on where it’s approved for eligible people with MS in the UK.

I’ve been waiting for a long time 

If you’re on a long waiting list for assessment, it’s worth checking in with your healthcare provider to ask about your situation. They should update you about your case so you can find out what’s going on. 

What else can I do to help the campaign? 

If you’ve already taken our action, please consider writing to your MP to tell them how important fair access to Sativex is for eligible people with MS.  

We can send you template letters or emails to help you do this. Email [email protected] for support.  

We’d also be grateful if you could share our action with friends and family. You can do this by email or on your social media channels.