The active ingredient of Sativex® is nabiximols which consists of cannabis extracts called cannabinoids. The principal cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). It is used to improve symptoms related to muscle stiffness (spasticity) in MS when other medicines have not worked. Spasticity describes the muscle stiffness that may be experienced by some people with MS.
Sativex® is a mouth spray (oromucosal spray). Each glass spray container holds 10 millilitres of liquid, equivalent to up to 90 sprays.
Only a specialist physician (neurologist or rehabilitation physician) can start you on treatment with Sativex®. The specialist will assess you from time to time to see if you should carry on taking it. Before you start using Sativex® your specialist doctor will conduct a thorough assessment of how bad your spasticity is and how it has responded to other treatments.
You will then have a 4-week trial of Sativex® after which your specialist will do another assessment to see whether Sativex® is helping you. Only if you have shown a significant improvement in your spasticity related symptoms after these 4 weeks should you continue to be treated with Sativex®. Your doctor will assess you from time to time to see if you should carry on taking it.
Sativex® may have side effects in some people. All medications have side effects. It is important to notify your health professional if you experience any side effects or are feeling unwell.
The most common side effect of Sativex® is feeling dizzy or tired. Other common side effects include, lack of energy or feeling weak or generally unwell, problems with your memory or having trouble concentrating, feeling abnormal or drunk, feeling sleepy or drowsy, blurred vision, constipation or diarrhea, feeling or being sick, loss of balance or falling over, changed sense of taste or a dry mouth, mouth problems, including burning, pain or mouth ulcers.
Your neurologist will assist you to assess the risks and the expected benefit of treatment with Sativex® prior to starting therapy and over the course of treatment. Your health professional can provide comprehensive information on the use of Sativex®, including precautions and side effects.
Sativex® is not recommended for women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy within the next 3 months.
If you are currently pregnant or trying to become pregnant, please discuss your individual circumstances and treatment options with your neurologist or healthcare team.
Sativex® is not recommended for women who are breastfeeding.
If you are currently breastfeeding, please discuss your individual circumstances and treatment options with your neurologist or healthcare team.
Sativex® was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for the treatment of people with spasticity associated with MS. It is available in Australia but it is not yet listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
It is available from selected pharmacies for approximately $700-800 for a 6-8 week supply.
Speak to your neurologist about what treatment best suits your individual circumstances.
MS Nurses can also provide information, training and ongoing support in managing your immunotherapy.
MS Australia does not recommend any specific disease-modifying treatment for people living with MS. Decisions about any treatments, taking into consideration the potential benefits and side effects for each individual’s circumstances, should be made in careful consultation with the person’s neurologist.