A systematic review of European regional and national guidelines: a focus on the recommended use of nabiximols in the management of spasticity in multiple sclerosis

Expert Rev Neurother. 2022 Jun;22(6):499-511. doi: 10.1080/14737175.2022.2075263. Epub 2022 Jun 1.


Introduction: Spasticity is a common, debilitating symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS) with several treatment options including the cannabinoid-based treatment, nabiximols. The purpose of this review was to examine the existing clinical practice guidelines that direct the management of multiple-sclerosis-associated spasticity (MSS), to identify areas of similarity and divergence, and suggest where standardization and improvement may be obtained.

Areas covered: Published literature (PubMed), websites of relevant European Medical Associations and Health Technology Assessment bodies were systematically searched to identify guidelines describing the pharmacological management of MSS, focussing on European countries where nabiximols (Sativex® oromucosal spray) is approved. Sixteen publicly available guidelines were identified. Analysis was focused on, but not restricted to, the use of nabiximols in the wider context of the pharmacological treatment of MSS.

Expert opinion/commentary: We believe that currently MSS is insufficiently treated and this would be improved if a clear and detailed set of guidelines were available and implemented in daily practice. We would welcome the update and amalgamation of the existing guidelines by an international panel, using an evidence-based approach, into a single guideline that is more detailed and standardized in its approach to the initiation, monitoring and optimization of anti-spasticity drugs.

Keywords: Guidelines; Sativex® oromucosal spray; multiple sclerosis; nabiximols; pharmacological; recommendations; spasticity.

Plain language summary

People with multiple sclerosis often experience tight or stiff muscles and an inability to control those muscles. This is known as spasticity, which can have a devastating impact on a person’s ability to carry out their daily activities. In addition to physiotherapy, doctors can prescribe various medicines to improve spasticity; these are known as anti-spasticity treatments. Often, prescription choices are steered by guideline documents, written by medical experts. These documents contain important information such as when to prescribe, what to prescribe, how much to prescribe and how to measure how well the treatment is working. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the guidelines that guide the prescription of anti-spasticity treatments in people with multiple sclerosis in Europe, are fit for purpose for day-to-day medical practice. In particular, this article examines how the guidelines represent the newer cannabis-based treatment known as nabiximols, sold under the name Sativex oromucosal spray, which has become more widely available in many European countries over the last 10 years.