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Image: A graphic showing the chemical structure of cannabis

Campaign for cannabis for MS

Evidence shows cannabis for medicinal use can work for some people to relieve pain and muscle spasms in MS.

The case for cannabis for MS

Dealing with pain and muscle spasms when you have MS can be exhausting and make it impossible to manage daily life.

There are NHS treatments for pain and muscle spasms, but they don’t work for everyone. And there is Sativex, a cannabis spray, which can provide life-changing relief from spasticity. In 2019, Sativex was approved in England for people with MS with moderate to severe spasticity, when other treatments have not worked. But many people with MS are still being denied access.

This is why we've been campaigning to make cannabis based medicine available to people in England with MS who could benefit. Read more about our Sativex campaign and what’s happening elsewhere in the UK and take action.

Making progress

August 2021: We launched our campaign to end the Sativex postcode lottery in England, after our research found only 49 out of 106 local health boards are funding Sativex for people who are eligible. Please take action to support people with MS now.

April 2021: Sativex is approved for use in Northern Ireland. So far, our monitoring suggests people with MS who meet the criteria are being offered the treatment after discussion with their consultant. If you are having any issues accessing Sativex, please let us know by emailing [email protected]

November 2019: NICE published new cannabis guidelines approving the use of Sativex for moderate to severe spasticity (spasms) when other treatments haven’t worked for NHS patients in England.

August 2019: We responded to draft guidelines on medicinal cannabis after hearing from hundreds of people with MS. We called on NICE and the company behind Sativex to get around the table to strike a deal that makes Sativex available on the NHS.

July 2019: A committee of MPs said Government should encourage greater research into the effects of cannabis-based medicines in areas like MS, with the aim of making effective treatments available on the NHS in future. 

March 2019: Several months after it became legal to prescribe unlicensed cannabis based treatments, we hadn’t heard of anyone with MS who had benefited. There are many reasons for this, low confidence amongst prescribers. In March, we spoke in front of a committee of MPs to say the system wasn’t working for people with MS, and called on Government to take responsibility and produce a clear plan for change. We also told MPs that improving access to Sativex on the NHS must be a priority.

November 2018: On 1 November 2018 cannabis based products for medicinal use were rescheduled, moving from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations. This was a landmark moment and a big win for people with MS who campaigned for this change. But changing the law is just the start of creating a system that will mean people are able to access cannabis for medicinal use. Sativex, as a licenced medicine classified as Schedule 4, was not directly affected by this change in the law, but people with MS were still struggling to access this drug.

October 2018: The Government started the process to change the law on cannabis for medicinal use. The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, said that with the approval of a specialist, people would be able to get prescriptions for cannabis-derived medicinal products from 1 November 2018

July 2018: The UK’s Chief Medical Officer concluded in the first part of the review that cannabis can be beneficial for some conditions, including MS. The second part of the review, conducted by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, also recommended cannabis-derived medicinal products should be made available.

The Home Secretary accepted the recommendations of the review and instructed the relevant bodies to begin identifying what cannabis-based products should be considered.

June 2018: The UK Government announced a review of cannabis for medicinal use. Following this news we worked with neurologists, MPs and celebrities to send an open letter to the Home Secretary to ensure MS was in the review.

January 2018: We launched our first campaign action on cannabis for MS. Thousands of you tweeted and emailed your MP calling for change.

July 2017: Based on the response from our community and medical professionals we changed our official position and went public with it. We wrote to the UK Government calling on them to legalise cannabis for medicinal use to treat pain and muscle spasms in MS.

December 2016 - June 2017: We talked to medical professionals about the evidence for cannabis for MS and asked people with MS whether they thought we should be calling for change.