In April 2017, Billy Caldwell of Castlederg, Ireland became the United Kingdom’s first medicinal marijuana prescription recipient. The boy’s family had tried to combat the symptoms of his severe form of epilepsy with conventional medication for years, but he still suffered from daily seizures.
During an extended trip to the United States where the Caldwell family was able to obtain cannabis oil and treat Billy with it, the boy remained seizure-free for eighty-two days. Due to high costs, the family was unable to continue to stay in the US.
After months of campaigning by the Caldwells, the NHS allowed Billy’s general practitioner to prescribe non-psychoactive medicinal cannabis oil to treat his epilepsy.
But the Home Office recently summoned Billy’s GP, Brendan O’Hare and told him to cease writing medical cannabis prescriptions for the child. The oil has kept Billy seizure-free since he started taking it and not allowing him access to it puts his health in considerable danger.
A single seizure can potentially be fatal.
“I am frightened and angry these people have acted in this way,” Billy’s mother Charlotte told Belfast Live. “They are putting my son’s life at risk.”
The family has enough medicine to last until June but without a prescription, renewing the supply is uncertain at this moment.
“Somewhere a civil servant has agreed or made a decision with a deadly knock-on effect,” said Charlotte. “I want to know who did this and why. I have fought for 11 years to help my child live; I’m not going to stop now despite the faceless, spineless actions of some remote civil servant.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office says that while they recognize that people are looking to find relief for their symptoms, they state the importance of testing medicines thoroughly to make sure that they are safe and effective for patients to purchase and consume.
But since Billy Caldwell started using medicinal cannabis oil, he was able to, like many epileptic children, safely consume it and effectively live seizure-free in a way that he wasn’t able to with conventional medications.
Charlotte Caldwell will be meeting with members of parliament about the issue and speaking at a medical cannabis conference this week in London.