Inverclyde mum crowdfunds to buy illegal cannabis oil drug for daughter

Image source, Sandra Munford
Image caption,
Kate Munford has undergone brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy but her condition has deteriorated

A Scottish mother is asking strangers to help to buy her terminally-ill daughter illegal drugs to prolong her life.

Sandra Munford sees cannabis oil as the last hope to help 21-year-old Kate fight a brain tumour.

She has spent £1,200 a month importing capsules to treat Kate, whose prognosis under current treatment is "not great".

She has spent most of her life savings on the treatment she says is making a huge difference to Kate's condition.

Sandra, from Kilmacolm in Inverclyde, says she is terrified of the consequences of buying the drug but that she will not stop buying the capsules she believes are giving her daughter a chance at life.

Kate, 21, underwent two major surgeries to remove 80% of the tumour, followed by a 12-week course of radiotherapy and a year of chemotherapy.

More chemotherapy came when the tumour returned a year ago. After three months it became obvious the treatment was not working so Sandra began paying for a private prescription of a cannabis-based drug called Sativex.

This cost £450 every two months.

Image source, Kate Munford
Image caption,
Sandra says Kate was a fabulous, outgoing, bubbly, kind and generous person before her illness

By January 2018, the tumour had grown considerably, pressing on a part of Kate's brain that is the control centre.

Sandra says her vivacious, happy daughter has now slipped into such a decline she is completely numb down her right side, unable to walk, talk or in fact do anything for herself.

But her family have been told there is nothing more that can be done.

Sandra said: "We were told the chemotherapy would probably not work and I had been reading about cannabis oil.

"The success stories gave me hope and I really thought there is nothing else we can try so we are doing this."

"When you read up on it, there are more positives than negatives.

"I had no idea it was something that could be used for healing."

Image source, Sandra Munford
Image caption,
Sandra Munford will try anything to help her daughter Kate

Sandra contacted a man she heard on a radio programme whose wife had similar symptoms to Kate.

She organised to buy the medicine from him.

The type of cannabis oil Sandra is buying is legal in Canada and parts of the US and is grown in medical labs.

She said it is making a difference. Slowly.

Sandra told BBC Scotland News website: "We see small improvements. Her right leg which was numb is moving.

"And she started to move a hand on that side. She is trying to speak. These are all small improvements that only me and Beth can probably see.

"You would think we had won the lottery jumping about the living room when she had moved her leg."

These signs have given Sandra hope that given time, Kate could get better: "For Kate, I hope that she makes a full recovery, which I have great faith she will.

"My hope is she would get strength."

Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?

The medical benefits of cannabis have long been debated in the UK, with the amount of anecdotal evidence far out weighing the amount of scientific proof.

This is partly because marijuana is notoriously difficult to study, because it is classified as a schedule-1 drug (meaning there is currently no accepted medical treatment use).

What we do know is that cannabis contains active ingredients called cannabinoids. Two of these - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) - are the active ingredients of a prescription drug called Sativex. This is used to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis.

Another cannabinoid drug, called Nabilone, is sometimes used to relieve sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer.

Trials are under way to test cannabis-based drugs for other conditions including cancer pain, the eye disease glaucoma, appetite loss in people with HIV or AIDS, and epilepsy in children.

We won't know whether these treatments are effective until the trials have finished.

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Sandra started a crowdfunding page to try to raise £6,000 towards the cost of Kate's cannabis oil capsules.

Within three days, the total reached more than £10,000.

Sandra has been bowled over with people's generosity: "I'm stunned how quickly it has rocketed and I can't believe how nice and kind people have been.

"People who don't even know us have been donating."This amount will more or less cover a year of this medicine for Kate."

Image source, Sandra Munford
Image caption,
Sandra with her two daughters Kate and Beth

Sandra would like to see this treatment made legal in Scotland.

"It's about time the people who make these decisions about what's legal and what's not should read up about cannabis and the positive aspects.

"It's not about someone walking about being stoned. If drug addicts and alcoholics can get help through government systems then why can't we get the use of this to help loved ones get better?"

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "The licensing, safety and efficacy of medicines is currently reserved to the UK Government and is the responsibility of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency who operate on a UK-wide basis.

"We believe power in this area should be transferred so that in future the policy in this area would be for the Scottish parliament to decide upon."

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