Northern Ireland

Billy Caldwell 'may be allowed to take medicinal cannabis at home'

Charlotte and Billy Caldwell
Image caption Cannabis oil is used to control Billy Caldwell's seizures

A 12-year old boy who is severely epileptic may be allowed to be treated with medicinal cannabis at home.

Billy Caldwell, from County Tyrone, had previously been treated in London.

He returned to Northern Ireland with his mother Charlotte on Thursday afternoon after the Department of Health issued an emergency licence allowing doctors in Belfast to treat him with the drug.

The department replicated the licence issued in June by the Home Office.

'Complex matter'

On Friday, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust released a statement saying it is "working very hard with the Department of Health to put in place the necessary arrangements" for Billy to receive his medication at home in Castlederg from early next week, rather than at hospital in Belfast.

The statement added: "This is a very complex and sensitive matter and a number of issues still have to be finalised."

Representatives of the trust met Charlotte Caldwell on Friday afternoon to advise her of the situation.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cannabis oil is not licensed in the UK as a medicine

Speaking to BBC News NI prior to the meeting, Ms Caldwell said Billy was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Friday morning following a seizure.

"Billy is on the highest spectrum of autism. He should be having familiarity and order in his life - his toys, his garden, his bed and his own home," she said.

"Instead, he's been forced to endure the exact opposite and we just want to take him home and for me to be able to give him his medication at home."

On Tuesday, the government said it would reach a decision within the next few weeks on whether UK laws around medicinal cannabis would be changed.

Billy's story was one of a number of high-profile cases which prompted the government to review the its use.

He began using cannabis oil in 2016 to control his seizures.

The oil, which contains a substance called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is illegal in the UK but available in other countries.


Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?

CBD and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two types of cannabinoids found naturally in the resin of the marijuana plant.

A cannabis-based drug called Sativex has been licensed in the UK to treat MS. It contains THC and CBD.

Doctors could, in theory, prescribe it for other things outside of this licence, but at their own risk.

MS patients prescribed Sativex, who resupply it to other people, also face prosecution.

Another licensed treatment is Nabilone. It contains an artificial version of THC and can be given to cancer patients to help relieve nausea during chemotherapy.

Source: NHS Choices


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