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Government working to ‘find a way through’ as Brexit blocks access to medical cannabis



Medical cannabis report: A woman and her son
Hannah Deacon and her son Alfie, who relies on medical cannabis

The Health Secretary says he is working with the Dutch government to ensure patients with severe epilepsy can still access medical cannabis.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has assured families that he is working to find a solution after supplies of certain cannabis oils imported from Europe were severed at the end of the Brexit transition period.

Over 40 patients, who have been prescribed cannabis-based medicines in the UK but can only obtain their prescription through the Transvaal pharmacy based in the Netherlands, have been left without access to life-saving medication.

Campaigner Hannah Deacon, is one of those fearing her nine-year-old son Alfie Dingley could die if his treatment is stopped once his supply runs out in a matter of weeks.

Alfie, who has a form of severe epilepsy, became the first UK child to receive a permanent license for medical cannabis, following Hannah’s high profile campaign to help change the law in 2018.

He has been almost completely seizure free since beginning treatment with Bedrolite oil, which he now receives an NHS prescription for.

Hannah and other patients, were given just two weeks notice after the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) sent a letter to UK importers, clinics and patient groups, stating that prescriptions issued in the UK ‘can no longer be lawfully dispensed in an EU Member State’ from 1 January, 2021.

Speaking to the BBC on Thursday 7 January, Matt Hancock said the decision was one made by the Dutch government, but that he was working “very closely” with them to “change the position”.

He said: “It isn’t a decision that we can unilaterally change from the UK, so we’re looking in the short term as an urgent legal fix, and in the medium term, working with the home office and of course, the Dutch government to try to find a way through.”

However, Hannah says she has still had no response from the government, after appealing directly to the Health Secretary and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“I wrote to the Prime Minister on 29 December but received an automatic response saying he doesn’t reply to people who are not his constituents,” she said.

“It would be good if they reached out to me, as I have still heard nothing.”

Professor Mike Barnes, neurologist and founder of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, who obtained the first full license to prescribe medical cannabis in the UK, has warned that “one or two children could die” if they no longer have access to the medication.

He described the situation as “appalling” and explained that it was not a case of “swapping a child from one product to another” as each variety of cannabis is “subtly different”.


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