Billy Caldwell had up to a hundred seizures a night until his mother took him to America where he was prescribed cannabis oil. His seizures stopped, and his autism improved. When she ran out of money they returned home to Northern Ireland and her GP prescribed medicinal cannabis for 13 months. Then the GP received a letter from the Home Office and a warning at a meeting with drug enforcement officials telling him not to repeat any more prescriptions.
Billy’s mother went to Canada to legally buy the cannabis oil, but when she attempted to bring the bottles back into the UK they were confiscated at Heathrow. She begged Nick Hurd, a Home Office minister, to give her back the medicine but was told to apply for a licence which would take many months and could cost £100,00.
She insists that the medicinal cannabis oil is anti-epilepsy medicine, not a dangerous drug that could be used recreationally. He had a fit last night after missing his dose – his first in more than 250 days.
Many families face the same predicament, including six-year-old Alfie Dingley whose case I forwarded to my MP. His seizures reduced from 3,000 a year to 20 when he received the oil in Holland. Theresa May met his parents and said she would help, but nothing has changed so far. It is still classed as a schedule 1 drug and illegal to buy in the UK.
Surprisingly, Britain is the world’s largest exporter of cannabis for medical and scientific use. 44.9% of the world total. It is grown by one company, GW Pharmaceuticals, with a licence from the Home Office. The political angle is that the husband of Victoria Atkins, the Home Office minister, is responsible for this farm. Furthermore Philip May, husband of Theresa, is a relationship manager at Capital Group which part owns GW Pharmaceuticals.
GW makes Sativex, an oral spray for multiple sclerosis, which is the only legal use of medical cannabis in the UK. It sells for £125 for 10 ml. Anyone using any other form of medical cannabis theoretically faces a 14-year jail sentence.
The Home Office says that cannabis “in its raw form, it currently has no recognised medicinal or legitimate uses beyond potential research”. And yet thirteen European countries, thirty American states, Canada and Australia have found ways to legalise medical marijuana. Why can’t we? Is it because of the vested financial interests, or because of the lack of what the medical community here consider to be sufficient evidence of effectiveness? How can you gather evidence for something that is illegal? There is ample evidence of effectiveness from case studies around the world, but no UK based randomised controlled testing.
What counts as evidence? Tricky question which I hope to address in future blogs.