A BRADFORD man living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has spoken of his frustration at still being denied medicinal cannabis – despite the law changing one year ago today.
On November 1, 2018, it became legal for doctors to prescribe the medicine, but Paul Griffin, 49, who lives in Buttershaw, says he feels it was “nothing but a publicity stunt”.
He has lived with MS since 1996 – though wasn’t diagnosed until the mid-2000s, and experiences numbness, pain and muscle spasms in his arms, legs and feet. He has also had a constant headache for the past three-and-a-half years and had to give up work back in 2005 due to the condition.
And while he’s tried a number of different medications for the symptoms, none have helped him. He has repeatedly asked for Sativex, which has already been licensed to treat spasticity in MS. Although it’s deemed safe and effective, it isn’t routinely available on the NHS in England because it’s deemed too expensive. It is available through private prescription, but this isn’t an option for many people with MS.
Mr Griffin said: “I’ve been through so much trial and error over the past 15 years and I’m still in constant pain. When the law changed I started asking for Sativex again, but my doctors still say their hands are tied. It doesn’t seem fair that I’ve tried everything, nothing has worked, yet I still can’t be given the opportunity to see if Sativex can help me.
“It feels like the law change was nothing but a publicity stunt. Not only am I still in pain, I’m also angry because I’m still being denied something that could help.”
He added: “I could get cannabis illegally but I’ve not wanted to take the risk. I can’t be sure of whether it’s safe. I want the reassurance of only taking something I’m prescribed. MS has already done too much damage to my system, but it would make a massive difference to my life if I could stop the constant spasms.”
Genevieve Edwards, Director of External Affairs at the MS Society, said the change in law has been a “failure” for people with MS, with thousands of people struggling without any way to manage their pain.
She added that some people are being forced to spend disability benefits to fund private prescriptions, or resorting to buy cannabis on the black market.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We sympathise with those families dealing so courageously with challenging conditions. The change in the law allows specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use where clinically appropriate.
“There is a clear need for more evidence to support prescribing and funding decisions and we are working hard with the health system, industry and researchers to improve the knowledge base available.”
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has consulted on its guidelines on the use of cannabis-based medicines and is expected to publish its final guidelines this year.