MS drug: Hull couple's treatment denied by 'cruel' postcode lottery

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Mr and Mrs ToddImage source, MS Society /PA Media
Image caption,
Chris Todd said: "I can't function and rely on other people to help with things like cooking and showering"

A couple who both have multiple sclerosis (MS) say they are being denied a drug which could ease their symptoms because of where they live.

Anne and Chris Todd, from Hull, were the victims of a "cruel postcode lottery" affecting thousands of people in England, the MS Society said.

The cannabis-based drug Sativex can alleviate the effects of spasms and has been approved for NHS use in England.

However, less than half of areas in the country routinely offer the treatment.

Mrs Todd said: "It feels like someone somewhere has something against me and won't let me try this treatment that could change my life."

MS affects the brain and spinal cord and causes a wide array of symptoms.

The spray could alleviate pain caused by spasms that affect around 80% of people with the condition.

Only 49 out of 106 clinical commissioning groups in England are routinely offering the treatment, research by the MS Society has found.

It estimated about 4,800 people would be eligible, but just 630 are being offered it.

Chris Todd, who was diagnosed in 1999, said: "I've tried every medication to help my spasms, but they've either not worked, or given me bad side effects like vomiting.

"It is so frustrating that there is a treatment which could completely change our lives, but we can't get it.

"How much longer are we going to have to wait? Sativex was approved two years ago and yet nothing has changed. I can't go on like this."

Mrs Todd, diagnosed in 2005, added: "I know that Sativex is available and is changing people's lives."

'Completely unacceptable'

Fredi Cavander-Attwood, policy manager at the MS Society, said the couple's situation was "completely unacceptable".

"Sativex doesn't work for everyone with MS, but when it does work, the impact can be life-changing," she said.

"This cruel postcode lottery must end, and health bodies across England need to ensure that everyone who meets the criteria is able to access Sativex."

People were paying up to £500 a month for a private prescription while others bought cannabis illegally, she added.

An NHS spokesperson said: "While these are ultimately decisions for local health groups, services should refer to NICE guidance and offer patients Sativex if clinically appropriate, alongside several other treatments that are already available to those with multiple sclerosis on the NHS."

Hull Clinical Commissioning Group said it was working with Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to make Sativex freely available to those with MS who meet NICE guidelines.

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