With the UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, having announced a review into the use of cannabis-based medicines in the UK, which could lead to their re-scheduling and pave the way for doctors to issue prescriptions for treatments, North Wales Assembly Member and Chair of the Cross Party Group on Neurological Conditions, Mark Isherwood, has called on the Welsh Government to outline how it proposes to deal with the matter.
In yesterday’s Business Statement Mr Isherwood, who has been working with MS Society Cymru on this issue for some time, backed the call for a Welsh Government Statement regarding the provision of medicinal cannabis on prescription, referring to the well-publicised case of Billy and Charlotte Caldwell.
He said: “You may recall that in January, I led a Debate in the Assembly, as Chair of the Cross Party Group on Neurological Conditions, highlighting that this wasn't about one person, it was about multiple people, with multiple conditions, who were already being forced to access cannabis illegally, rather than having individually distillated prescriptions to meet their particular needs.
“After that Debate, I hosted Billy and his mother Charlotte in this Assembly, and they told us their story. We heard that Billy used to suffer up to 100 seizures a day until he began treatment with cannabis oil, following successful treatment in Los Angeles by a children's epilepsy specialist, and he became virtually seizure free. On return from Los Angeles, Charlotte told us, he became the first person to be prescribed medicinal cannabis on the UK NHS.
“Charlotte has been campaigning for medicinal cannabis from the NHS, recognising the desperation felt by many families fighting to be afforded the same access that she fought so hard for. And she was adamant, and remains adamant, that this is a separate issue entirely, and must not become confused with debates over recreational use, or broader drug legalization.
“She contacted me again in May, after her doctor was summoned to a meeting with Home Office officials and told to desist writing the prescriptions. After that, I wrote to the Home Secretary, urging him and his officials to urgently contact her to find a resolution and a way forward.
“We heard that the UK Government has now set out plans for an expert clinical panel to look at individual cases, and I know, in January, I was calling on the Welsh Government to put in place preparations within the Welsh NHS for potential prescription here. I would be grateful for a detailed statement acknowledging the issue and detailing how the Welsh Government proposes to address this, in alignment with the UK, but also in the devolved context, and hopefully add its voice of support, a voice that sadly wasn't fulsome when I led the Debate in January."
Leader of the House Julie James AM said she will “discuss with the Cabinet Secretary (Health) where we are and make sure that he updates Members in the most appropriate way."