Epileptic children in the UK are staring at a bleak future that could be devoid of a life-saving medicine they depend on. With the Brexit transition scheduled for December 31, the affected children might lose access to medical cannabis.
40 epileptic children affected
According to campaigners, around 40 children who are severely epileptic, and their families might lose access to medical cannabis they are “completely reliant on”. Starting January 1, 2021, UK importers, clinics, and other patient groups will not have their prescriptions lawfully dispensed in the EU, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
If that happens, importers will have their supply of medical cannabis products from the Netherlands terminated. Currently, epileptic children heavily depend on these products. According to campaigners, the type of medical cannabis used to treat epileptic children has minimized the number of life-threatening seizures among the affected children.
Consequently, medical cannabis products have significantly improved the suffering of children’s quality of life in recent years. In a letter dated December 15, the DHSC advised importers to cooperate with pharmacies, clinics, and prescribers to recommend alternative products to users because “dispensing finished cannabis oil (Bedrocan products) in the Netherlands against prescriptions from UK prescribers is no longer an option from January 2021.”
However, campaigners now say it’s difficult for the affected families to find alternative sources or products.
“Medical cannabis is not one single product. Families have tried different products and found what works for their child. Now that supply is being threatened. The termination of medical cannabis supply from the Netherlands to the UK is a matter of life and death for these children,” a spokesperson for the End Our Pain campaign said.
The spokesperson added that the affected families had made the health secretary, the health secretary, and the NHS for urgent assistance.
“It’s imperative that the government act now to help reach a solution and help these families… This letter, sent so close to the transition deadline, has left us scrambling to find a solution based on minimal information,” the spokesperson said.
Since 2018, doctors have been prescribing cannabis-derived medicines to some patients based on family campaigns. However, NHS doctors became reluctant to prescribe medical cannabis for some time, believing that only three children were granted an NHS prescription since 2018. This has led to other families being “systematically denied NHS prescriptions.”
Consequently, many families with epileptic children have been paying up to £2,000 per month to privately secure Dutch medical cannabis. Some families have been relying on fundraising to foot the bills.