PATIENTS with multiple sclerosis in Scotland will have routine access to a cannabis-based medicine on the NHS for the first time following a long-awaited recommendation from the regulator.

Campaigners at charity, MS Society Scotland, hailed the decision to make Sativex available on prescription to patients with moderate to severe muscle spasms, saying it can be "potentially life-changing" for patients by making a "significant improvement" to symptoms.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) said it has accepted Sativex for use in adult patients "with moderate to severe spasticity due to MS who have not responded adequately to other anti-spasticity medication".

Repeat prescriptions will also depend on patients experiencing a "clinically significant improvement" in their spasms during an initial trial period.

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The drug, which is administered as a mouth spray, contains two chemicals derived from the cannabis plant - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

It has been shown in clinical trials to relieve the painful muscle twisting and stiffness, known as spasticity, associated with MS.

Sativex was licensed for use in the UK more than 10 years ago - meaning that it was considered safe. However, until 2018, doctors were not allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis products.

Sativex was approved for use on the NHS in England in 2019, and has also been routinely available in Wales and Northern Ireland, but until now patients in Scotland could only gain access via the individual patient treatment request process.

Lillias Rapson, 38, from Thurso, Caithness, has been taking Sativex since 2018 following a prescription by her neurologist, originally on the basis of a four-week trial.

She said: "He needed a lot of convincing as he seemed reluctant to prescribe it when it wasn’t approved for use on the NHS in Scotland."

Ms Rapson said she used to experience a painful tightening sensation around her chest and stomach area, caused by her MS, which was so severe she would "struggle to breathe".

She said: "I'd have to stay close to the bathroom as I'd quite often vomit due to the severity of the pain the muscle spasms caused in my ribs and chest.

"The 'hugs' would last anything from minutes to hours. I'd also struggle to walk due to tremors in my legs. I'd often nearly pass out from the intensity of the muscle spasms.

“Before Sativex, I tried muscle relaxer Baclofen for over a year with little success. I'd exceed the stated dose but still be experiencing spasms.

"Then I took gabapentin [used to treat nerve pain] but I struggled with functioning ‘normally’. I felt quite out of it. It was too much with working and maintaining a life also.

“I take eight sprays of Sativex a day. I’m able to live a life and work out without the severe intensity of MS pain. I still experience muscle spasms but they are now mostly controlled using Sativex.”

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Sativex side effects can include feeling sick, tired, dizzy, or having diarrhoea, but these tend to fade after a few weeks and some people have no side effects.

Existing drugs to treat spasticity can also cause memory problems and depression, and have proven ineffective in some patients.

Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said: “Sativex has been proven to relieve muscle spasms and their associated pain, leading to increased mobility, better sleep patterns and an improved quality of life for the person living with MS and their family and loved ones.

“We will continue to work with the SMC, NHS Scotland, individual health boards and neurologists to ensure Sativex quickly becomes available to everyone throughout Scotland whose life could be significantly improved by taking it.”