Sajid Javid urged to ‘finish the job’ of making medical cannabis more accessible – The Mirror
Sajid Javid has been urged to ‘finish the job’ of making medical cannabis more accessible on the NHS.
The Health Secretary announced in 2018, when he was Home Secretary, that the law would change to allow GPs to prescribe the drug, which can be used to treat children with rare forms of epilepsy.
But tough regulations have meant only a handful of children – two in Northern Ireland and one in England – have received NHS funding for medical cannabis.
On Monday, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine will use a Commons debate to call on Mr Javid to “fulfill the promise” he made in 2018.
“I am not a medical expert, but I have seen the real difference these treatments can make to a person’s life, and the financial burden that is currently being placed on families to provide them,” she told the Sunday Mirror.
She raised the case of a young constituent, eight-year-old Murray Gray, who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy called “Doose Syndrome.”
Before receiving cannabis oil as a treatment, Murray would suffer hundreds of seizures a day – and felt adverse side effects from anti-epileptic drugs.
But since being administered with medical cannabis, Murray has been seizure free for more than two years.
Ms Jardine said: “When Murray’s mum Karen first came to me, he was a very unwell little boy who was constantly in and out of hospital with dozens of seizures, and his family were worried they could lose him.
“Now, since being prescribed cannabis oil, he is seizure free and a happy youngster who plays football with his dad and told me everything I needed to know about dinosaurs when he visited my office. This medication has given him a life he otherwise may not have had.
“However, his parents have had to fight every inch of the way. They, like other parents up and down the country, have raised thousands of pounds to travel to Holland themselves to secure the drug and face the constant fear that they won’t be able to continue, meaning Murray’s health will deteriorate again.”
Under current laws, cannabis products can only be prescribed by specialist doctors, because of the “limited evidence base” and the “unlicensed nature” of the medication.
NHS England say it is “important to ensure that clinical specialists with the appropriate expertise are able to make treatment decisions in their patient’s best interest, and that decisions about prescribing are in the hands of expert clinicians led by evidence on quality, safety and effectiveness, balancing the benefits that might be accrued for a particular patient against the products proven harms.”
But Ms Jardine said this has left many families “struggling” to get access to the treatments.
She said: “It’s unacceptable to think that there are thousands of people missing out because they do not have the support they need from either the UK or Scottish Governments.
“What happens to children with rare forms of epilepsy whose families can’t raise the funds themselves? We cannot allow this to become a situation of the have, and have nots.
“I appeal to Sajid Javid to use his new position as Health Secretary to finish the job he started back in 2018. ”
A government spokesperson said: “Our sympathies are with all patients and families dealing with rare and hard to treat conditions.
“The government changed the law to allow specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use where clinically appropriate and in the best interests of patients.
“Licensed cannabis-based medicines are funded by the NHS where there is clear evidence of their quality, safety and effectiveness.”