Mother of epileptic girl has medicinal cannabis seized for second timeMegan Orito
Mother of epileptic girl has medicinal cannabis seized for second time.
Emma Appleby had £2,500 of drug she had bought in the Netherlands confiscated at Gatwick airport.
Emma Appleby with her daughter Teagan and her partner Lee Moore. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
The mother of a severely epileptic nine-year-old girl has had medical cannabis seized at an airport for the second time, even though she had a private prescription for the medicine.
Emma Appleby was accompanied on her trip to the Netherlands by Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi, who has campaigned for greater access to medical cannabis.
Although several cannabis-based medicines have been prescribed by the NHS since it was legalised in November, full extract cannabis oils – which campaigners say are both more effective and cheaper – remain unlicensed and do not appear to have been given to patients.
However, they are available privately and a number of patients have gained access in that way.
“There seems no end to the stress and trauma of trying to access the medical cannabis that I have proved beyond doubt transforms the life of my daughter Teagan,” said Appleby, who was carrying a month’s supply of medical cannabis oil worth about £2,500.
“I am exhausted and shattered but I’ve seen how this medicine transforms my daughter’s life. I have to find a way forward. The NHS just won’t prescribe. This is unforgivably cruel and unfair.”
However, she was told she now needed an import licence which she said she could not afford. “I am just a mum wanting to do the best for my child, not a company importing on a commercial basis.”
Within the medical community, there is a reluctance to widen access to medical cannabis until further research is undertaken, while concern remains over the impact of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. There are fears that the use of medical cannabis is a “Trojan horse” for recreational cannabis legalisation, and the head of NHS England warned last month that medical cannabis use could “accidentally normalise drug use”.
NHS England guidance provides narrow guidelines for the medicinal use of cannabis-based products, saying there must be “clear published evidence of benefit” and only used where all other treatment options have been exhausted.
Antoniazzi criticised the implementation of the new laws on medicinal cannabis. “Emma should not have to get a private prescription and have to cope with going abroad to get the medicine with all the bureaucracy this entails,” she said. “She should be able to get it on the NHS. Emma has enough to do caring for her very sick daughter.”
Teagan has a rare chromosomal disorder called Isodicentric 15 as well as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a type of epilepsy which causes up to 300 seizures a day.
Campaigners say that there are at least three other families who go abroad regularly to obtain medical cannabis, without revealing it upon their return to the UK.
Home Office guidance states: “If you are… carrying less than three months’ supply of prescribed controlled drugs listed under schedule 2… you will not need a personal import or export licence to enter or leave the UK.”
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is set to issue revised guidance on the medicinal use of cannabis-based products later this year after health secretary Matt Hancock called on the NHS to evaluate the barriers to “clinically appropriate prescribing” and encouraged greater research.
A government spokesman said: “It is unlawful to import unlicensed cannabis-based products for medicinal use to the UK without a Home Office importation licence.
“There is an established regulatory system which enables the importation of these products to the UK via pharmaceutical wholesalers, so they can be dispensed to UK resident patients prescribed these products by a specialist doctor.”
He added: “Border Force has a duty to enforce the law and stop the unlawful import of controlled substances into the UK.”
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