UK children face loss of life-changing cannabis drug

At least a dozen children in the UK are facing the loss of the cannabis drugs used to treat their life-threatening health conditions, leaving their parents to scramble to find a new doctor who will write prescriptions to keep their children desire.

Three years ago, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that cannabis-based medicines would be made available to some patients. After receiving advice from medical experts, Javid said medicinal cannabis products would be reprogrammed and clinical specialists would be allowed to prescribe them to patients “with exceptional clinical need”.

The news was a welcome relief for Robin Emerson of Belfast, whose young daughter Jorja suffers from a severe form of epilepsy. She suffered up to 30 seizures per day and was admitted twice to the intensive care unit. Jorja was one of the first patients to be approved to use medical cannabis in 2018, receiving a prescription from Dr Adelaida Martinez, a pediatric neurologist at Portland Hospital in London. Before starting the cannabis medicine, which is made in Canada, Jorja was unable to sit or roll over on her own. But with the treatment, Jorja recently took her assisted first steps on a treadmill.

“It took us about five and a half weeks to see improvement – but once we hit that mark, things definitely improved to where we are three years later,” said Emerson. The independent. “Since then, Jorja has prospered. She has no seizures, she is a smiling and happy child – it has completely transformed our life.

However, Martinez recently retired and the families of her cannabis patients couldn’t find another specialist to replace her. The situation has left the Emersons and a dozen more patients she was writing prescriptions for without a way to get the drugs they desperately need. Additionally, Emerson says only three patients received a prescription for medical cannabis from the UK’s National Health Service, leaving the remaining families to pay up to £ 2,000 a month for the drug.

Father asks health secretary to change law

To resolve the issue, Emerson asks Javid, who is now UK Secretary of State for Health and Welfare, to change the law and allow GPs to write prescriptions for medical cannabis as well. But the government has said clinical trials of cannabis-based drugs must be completed before general practitioners are allowed to prescribe. Emerson acknowledges the research is vital, but maintains that it is neither realistic nor safe for children already supported by cannabis medicine to forgo treatment while extensive clinical trials are undertaken.

“It is deeply unfair that dozens of children with severe, drug-resistant epilepsy continue to be denied the NHS access to the only drugs that can control and manage their serious health problems,” Emerson said in a press release. “The lives of patients and the hopes of dozens of families depend on the government to provide greater access. “

The plight of Jorja and other young patients in the UK who are struggling to get the medicinal cannabis treatments they need has sparked discussion, but little action so far in Parliament. During a debate in the House of Commons in September, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine called on Javid to “keep the promise” he made in 2018.

“I am not a medical expert, but I have seen the real difference these treatments can make in a person’s life and the financial burden that is currently placed on families to provide them,” she said. to Sunday mirror.

After another debate in the House of Commons last week, Emerson renews the Health Secretary’s call to action. Without a new prescription, Jorja will run out of her current supply of drugs in less than three weeks, a scenario that could put the girl’s health at risk.

“The situation has become desperate,” he said. “I urge the Secretary of Health to break this deadlock by clarifying existing guidelines and ultimately allowing general practitioners to prescribe, to ensure that this life-saving treatment is not withdrawn. “

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