Expert panel assembled to advise government on cannabis oil

Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy. Image: Keep Billy Alive/Facebook

Monday, June 18, 2018

A panel of clinicians will be assembled to advise the government on the prescription and administration of medicinal cannabis after an urgent question was raised in parliament.

Nick Hurd, minister of state for the Home Office, said that the case of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell, who was rushed to hospital with severe epileptic seizures after the oil was taken away, had “shone a light” on the need for a review of the legalities around cannabis-based medicines.

Current laws “permit the production, supply and possession of raw cannabis, solely for research purposes, under a Home Office license,” he explained.

“The cannabis based medicine Sativex is currently the only one that can be prescribed in the UK because there is a proven case for its safety and efficacy.”

He said Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, would be in charge of assembling the panel.

Panel to advise on individual cases

“As a first step, I can announce the government is assembling an expert panel of clinicians to advise ministers on any individual applications to prescribe cannabis based medicines.

Listen to Mike Penning MP talking to Jamie East about medicinal cannabis above

“This is consistent with the principle that a clinician should be at the heart of the process. I’ve asked Dame Sally Davies if she’ll take forward this important work.”

Emergency license for Billy

The question came after Billy Caldwell had his supply of cannabis oil - which contains the banned substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - confiscated at Heathrow Airport last Monday as his mother returned from Canada with a year’s supply.

Shel uses it to treat Billy’s epilepsy and says it drastically reduces his seizures.

He began having seizures again just days after the oil was seized, and was eventually discharged on Monday (June 18) after Home Secretary Sajid Javid granted an emergency license for the use of the oil.

Speaking outside the hospital, Ms Caldwell said: “The fact that Billy has been discharged is testimony to the effectiveness of the treatment and underlines how vital it is that every child and every single family affected in our country should have immediate access to the very same medication.”

'Many other children affected'

She demanded a meeting with Javid and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt within 24 hours. “I am now calling for an urgent meeting with the Health Secretary and the Home Secretary - I will share with them my experience, which no matter what anyone says, cannot possibly be imagined by anyone else.

“I will ask them to urgently implement a programme that provides immediate access to the meds Billy so urgently needs and now more so than ever the many other children affected by this historic development.

I will also ask them to implement a review of how the Government, our government, our UK government, can make cannabis based medication available to all patients who urgently require it in our country.”

Earlier on the Today programme, Hunt had hinted at his support for a review into current laws.

“I don't think anyone who followed that story could sensibly say that we are getting the law on this kind of thing right,” he said

"I think everyone feels for the lady concerned, and of course there are many, many other people in that situation."

"We have to do something, we have to do it quickly.”