Sativex launched in the UK, June 2010

Sativex® (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)), the first cannabinoid medicine derived from whole plant extracts from the cannabis sativa plant, has been available in the UK since June 2010 to treat spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) (1).

Available as a prescription only medicine and given as a mouth spray, the launch of Sativex® means that, for people with MS experiencing the spasms and cramping associated with spasticity, there is another treatment option.

There are approximately 100,000 people with MS in the UK and spasticity is very common, affecting most people with the condition at some point (2,3). It causes uncontrollable stiffness, muscle tension and spasms (4), which are often extremely painful and immobilising.

Simple day to day activities that people take for granted like unscrewing the lid off a milk bottle or being able to get out of a car can become very difficult. Not only does this cause people with MS huge distress, quality of life, self-image and mood can be greatly affected (4).

Speaking about the availability of Sativex® at its launch in June 2010, Pam Macfarlane, Chief Executive of the MS Trust said: ‘We have been aware for a long time, based on comments from people with MS, that cannabis based medicines can significantly improve spasticity which is a common, complex symptom of MS.

‘For this reason the MS Trust has campaigned for the availability of a licensed medicine that can be properly controlled and prescribed. We have also invested money and resources in developing the body of knowledge by funding clinical research into the effectiveness of cannabis based medicines. The launch of Sativex® is therefore a milestone for the NHS and the MS Trust, and we are delighted. It will now be down to specialist professionals to assess people and we hope that this can happen quickly.’

As with many medicines, Sativex® does not work for everyone. The clinical trials show that about half of all people who add it to their existing medication find that it can provide relief from the debilitating symptoms of spasticity associated with MS (5). It contains active ingredients called cannabinoids which are extracted from cannabis plants grown in a strictly controlled environment.


  • Sativex® Summary of Product Characteristics, 2010
  • Multiple Sclerosis Society. About MS. Available at (Accessed October 2012).
  • Multiple Sclerosis Trust. Multiple Sclerosis Information for Health and Social Care Professionals. 2007. Available at (Accessed October 2012).
  • Multiple Sclerosis International Federation. Spasticity in MS. MS in focus. Issue 12, 2008. Available at (Accessed October 2012).
  • Montalbán X, Wright S. Trial period for new symptomatic treatments: Lessons learnt from a Sativex in MS spasticity clinical trial. Oral session 131 presented at the 25th Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS). September 2009.

Date of update March 2014
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