UK: Free medical cannabis for children with epilepsy

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Charlotte Caldwell, whose epileptic son Billy helped change medical cannabis law in the UK, has won free access to medical cannabis products for children with severe epilepsy, which could save money up to £6,000 in private prescription costs, equivalent to eight months’ treatment.

As many as 75 families will be eligible for support when they apply for funding for their treatment from the NHS, Britain’s healthcare system, through the Refractory Epilepsy Specialty Clinical Advisory Service (RESCAS), a procedure that can take up to eight months.

The support from Althea, Canopy Growth and Cellen, which all make cannabis products prescribed for children with epilepsy in the UK, comes just a month after Charlotte launched a new campaign to mark the fourth anniversary of the confiscation of his son Billy’s medical cannabis by customs officials at Heathrow Airport, an event that led politicians to change the law to allow doctors to prescribe it.

Charlotte called on medical cannabis manufacturers to provide free medication and to give other children with epilepsy the support Billy received by providing free access to life-saving drugs through the RESCAS procedure.

The latter was set up in 2020 following a lawsuit filed by Charlotte against the British government. It provides a pathway to NHS-funded medical cannabis (and other ‘alternative treatment’ options) for refractory epilepsy patients under the age of 18.

During the campaign, Charlotte sought to reach out to all medical cannabis manufacturers to ask for patient support during RESCAS requests. Besides Althea, Canopy Growth and Cellen, Charlotte continues to have conversations with several other manufacturers and is confident that other companies will agree to contribute in due course.

Medicines produced by these three manufacturers are currently prescribed to around 30 patients in the UK via private prescription. It is estimated that around 45 other patients are being prescribed medical cannabis from five other manufacturers, all invited by Charlotte to donate their treatments.

“We cannot guarantee that these children will be successful in the Rescas process, but they will receive between six and eight months of medicine, which will relieve their financial burden for a while in these difficult times. And then, if their application is accepted, they will be able to benefit from long-term funding from the NHS”.

Billy, now 17, used to have up to 100 seizures a day, but now goes several months without having one.

Ms Caldwell said: “If your child currently has access to medical cannabis for epilepsy via private prescription, please do not hesitate to contact me. Although I cannot guarantee all results, I promise that as a mother who has been in the same circumstances as you, I and the trustees of the I Am Billy Foundation will do everything possible to support your child. in the Rescas process, completely free of charge.

“Billy and I continue to lobby other manufacturers of medical cannabis and I believe this is just the start of wider patient access to medical cannabis through the NHS. »

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