Leading doctors call for paediatricians to recognise medical cannabis for childhood epilepsy in the UK

3rd December 2021

Industry-leading doctors and scientists call for paediatricians to recognise medical cannabis in treating children with severe epilepsy in the UK.

According to a press release sent to Canex, the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (UKMCCS) and Drug Science called out the British Paediatric Neurology Association (BNPA) over its new guidance on the prescription of cannabis-based medicines for children with epilepsy.

Expert clinicians from both organisations have produced a critique to provide commentary, evidence and further crucial information to guide paediatricians to make their own informed decisions about treatment.

Professor Mike Barnes, Chair of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society said: “Professor Helen Cross was the first clinician to prescribe an unlicensed cannabis-based medicine for childhood epilepsy in 2003.

“That was a brave and correct move when a child was in extremis. It is a pity that the BPN’s current executive committee members have reverted to an old and outdated paradigm of efficacy to the clear detriment of many thousands of children in the UK.”

In the BPNA’s new guidance, there is no recognition that the children in question have uncontrolled, drug-resistant epilepsy. They have a poor quality of life, often difficulties in school, in play and at home, with their families also facing difficulties as a result.

In their commentary, the Society and Drug Science point out that recurrent seizures damage the developing brain, and such severe seizures are associated with a risk of status epilepticus and death. The two organisations believe that clinicians must explore every avenue in an attempt to alleviate the seizures.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has recently produced guidance that is supportive of continuing prescription for children already on a cannabis product but, sadly, the BPNA will not change its stance on the subject.

As a result, there are now only two prescribers in the UK, one of whom is retiring and neither taking on new patients.

This means over 50 children currently accessing their prescribed cannabis-based medicines are relying on just one doctor for continuing access to the only treatments that have kept them well and reduced hospital and ITU admissions.

And, the press release ends, with no new children currently able to access a prescription, seriously ill children are at real risk of imminent harm.

Related Stories