22nd October 2020
By Roland Sebestyén

In a landmark decision, the severely epileptic teenager, Billy Caldwell, will become the first UK patient to be given NHS prescribed medicinal cannabis.

Following years of campaigning, experts claim the move could pave the way for thousands of patients to receive the treatment across the UK.

Billy’s first batch of medicine, prescribed by a private doctor but funded by the Health Service, will arrive 1 November.

Charlotte Caldwell, Billy’s mother, who had been fighting with the authorities, was on BBC to talk about the historic decision.

She said: “It means everything to Billy. This is the medicine that has kept him alive for the last four years.

“Billy has had access to medicinal cannabis via private prescription before and is controlling his life-threatening seizures.

“I’m also thinking about the large groups of patients that I support. We have patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), epilepsy, chronic pain.

“There are 1.4 million patients who are still being denied, so they treat themselves with black market cannabis.”

To help those excluded, Sapphire Medical Clinics just announced that they offered more affordable, UK manufactured medicinal cannabis products.

Dr Mikael Sodergren, Managing Director and Academic Lead of Sapphire Medical Clinics, told BBC that the decision regarding Billy was “significant.”

He said: “Primarily, there is this young man who benefits from this medicine, and in some ways, it can be described as life-saving.

“On a wider note, this is the first time that the mechanism that’s been set up by the NHS to evaluate these cases that don’t fall within the NICE guidance – in this case for severe refractory childhood epilepsy.

“Maybe over the next few months and years that will be opened up for other conditions where these medicines have got really life-changing consequences.”

Billy was first in the news when it was reported he had hundreds of seizures a day, and Ms Caldwell took him to a specialist epilepsy centre in the US.

The doctors weren’t able to operate on him as it would have caused “catastrophic damage” to his speech and memory, so instead, they referred him to a medical cannabis specialist.

In 2018, the news of seizing Billy’s cannabis oil at Heathrow Airport sparked anger in the UK. Following the ordeal, the boy was admitted to a hospital and was reportedly fighting for his life.

A few months later, in November 2018, the UK laws on medicinal cannabis were eased so that doctors and professionals could prescribe some cannabis-derived medicines to patients.

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About the Author

Roland Sebestyén
Roland Sebestyen is a Hungarian journalist with over six years experience in the field. He has worked for some of the most popular, independent national newspapers in his country. In 2019 he moved to Sheffield to study on the NCTJ-accredited MA journalism course at the University of Sheffield. Roland is now a news and feature writer for Canex.