A MOTHER who previously had to resort to bringing illegal cannabis oil into the country to treat her son’s epilepsy has become the first person in Scotland to be able to source the drug legally.
Karen Gray, 44, travelled to the Netherlands every few months to buy oil from the whole cannabis plant, which contains the psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Despite her fears of being caught by Customs officials, it is the only treatment she has found to improve her son Murray’s seizures.
Gray says she is now “hugely relieved” as an anonymous supplier has obtained a licence from the Home Office to import the drug legally and sell it through a pharmacy in Glasgow.
Gray said: “It’s amazing news. We knew we’d get pulled at Customs eventually, it was always so stressful going through the airport.”
The supplier has agreed to source both types of cannabis oil Murray is currently taking – Bedrolite, with cannabidiol (CBD) and a small amount of THC, and Bedrocan, which contains 2% THC.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid authorised the use of medicinal products derived from cannabis last year but they can only be prescribed by specialist physicians and cannot be imported until a prescription has been issued. Reports suggest very few prescriptions have been issued.
The British Paediatric Neurology Association claims THC may negatively affect brain development, structure and mental health.
Murray received his first course of a new legal drug epilepsy drug containing CBD – called Epidiolex – in August 2018. It initially appeared to work, but the positive effects subsided after three months and Murray was admitted to hospital in January unable to “eat, talk or walk”.
Gray said she thought her son “was going to die”, until a Dutch doctor prescribed a drug containing THC.
Murray began treatment on Bedrolite in March, and Bedrocan in May. He is still responding well to treatment and is now able to play and attend school. His mother is now campaigning to get Murray a prescription for the drugs on the NHS. Even at cost price, a 10ml bottle of Bedrolite costs £170 and lasts just four days.
The medication is costing Gray and her husband about £1500 a month, which they are paying for through donations. She said: “It’s been a huge struggle. The NHS needs to step in and pay for it.”
Gray is campaigning with Lisa Quarrell, from East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, whose son Cole Thomson also takes Bedrolite for epilepsy, which Quarrell has been able to source from a London practice.
Both have urged Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to authorise “compassionate funding” for the drug from NHS Scotland. The mums were part of the group which successfully petitioned Downing Street to legalise medical cannabis, after gathering over 230,000 signatures.
Two children in England and Northern Ireland are now receiving NHS funding for Bedrolite under an exceptional licence, and Gray wants to see that extended to other children.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is not for the Scottish Government to intervene in prescribing decisions.
“If a clinician prescribed an approved Cannabis Based Product for Medicinal Use using an NHS prescription then it would be dispensed free of charge in Scotland.”