The Department recognises both Nabilone and Sativex as licensed cannabis-based medicines. Neither, however, falls within the scope of the definition of a ‘cannabis-based product for medicinal use’ under the recent change to the law.
Nabilone is a synthetic non-natural cannabinoid that mimics delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It was issued a marketing authorisation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), for nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy in patients who have failed to respond adequately to conventional antiemetic treatments, on 14 February 1995. There are no restrictions on its prescribing in the National Health Service.
Sativex (nabiximols) is an oromucosal spray that contains THC and cannabidiol (CBD). It was issued a marketing authorisation by the MHRA, for treatment of spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis who have failed to respond adequately to other anti-spasticity medications, on 16 June 2010. In October 2014, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended that Sativex is not offered for use on the NHS because it is not a cost-effective treatment. Sativex therefore is not routinely prescribed on the NHS, and can only be prescribed for an individual patient, where local governance and funding arrangements allow for this.