Families of children with epilepsy say they have been denied prescriptions for medicinal cannabis despite the law change on 1 November that ostensibly made it prescribable by specialist doctors.
As we have reported, the guidelines specialist doctors have been issue throw up a significant number of hoops and barriers to prescription. Yet it was reported in the media last month that epilepsy would be one of three conditions that wouldn’t face such stringent limitations.
The parents of 10-year-old Harry from North Yorkshire, who kept their family name anonymous, told the BBC: “We booked an appointment for 1 November, ready for the big day, but a couple of weeks before, we were told Harry wouldn’t get a prescription because doctors said there wouldn’t be a clear set of rules about how to prescribe the products,” said Harry’s mother Helena.
“Hearing the news I could feel my body being crushed – we were devastated and angry. At the moment this law change is practically meaningless.”
The family have been buying £300 bottles of low-strength cannabis oil to ease Harry’s potentially fatal epileptic seizures and were initially delighted by the law change which would enable stronger and more effective medicine to be administered.
A nine-year-old, Teagan Appleby, has also been denied cannabis medicine despite being in hospital for several weeks because of a series of epileptic seizures.
Teagen’s mother Emma Appleby said: “I’m absolutely gutted knowing that there’s a product out there that can help her. Watching my daughter suffer every day is horrible, especially when I was told that she’d qualify for a prescription.”
Prof Hannah Cock, from St George’s Hospital who specialises in epilepsy treatment, said: “I have around 2,000 people currently on my list, but I would only consider prescribing medicinal products for a handful of my patients where I’ve run out of options. These cannabis products are not the miracle drugs that some people make them out to be.”
What a helpful attitude!
Psychiatrist Michael Bloomfield, of University College London, said there needed to be more scientific evidence gathered about the effects of medicinal cannabis.
“It’s really important that doctors don’t cause harm to their patients, and we know that cannabis products can have side effects. So that is why it’s right that there is this slow and gradual prescribing process.”
All this makes a mockery of Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s claim in changing the law that “my intention was always to ensure that patients have access to the most appropriate course of medical treatment”.
Around one million patients in Britain need to use cannabis medicinally. We will be documenting patients’ experiences of the law change – good and bad. Please email your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org