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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 12 December, 2018
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Medical cannabis products can now be prescribed in Northern Ireland

The move has been welcomed by some, while others say the new rules are still too restrictive.

Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy pictured outside the Home Office in London in June.
Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy pictured outside the Home Office in London in June.
Image: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

MEDICINAL CANNABIS PRODUCTS will be available on prescription in Northern Ireland and the UK from today.

Specialist doctors will only be able to prescribe such products in a limited number of circumstances where other medicines have failed.

There has been a high-profile campaign to relax regulations around cannabis-based products for medicinal use, with a number of families going public with their stories.

Medicinal cannabis oil was seized from the mother of a young Tyrone boy at Heathrow Airport in London as she returned from Canada in June.

Charlotte Caldwell said the oil helps ease the symptoms endured by her son Billy (13), who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy. He began the treatment in the US, where medical marijuana is legal, in 2016.

Caldwell said Billy was seizure-free for more than 300 days while on the medication, but started to have seizures again once he stopped taking the oil.

After a public outcry, the UK Government granted a licence to allow Billy to use cannabis oil. 

‘Other treatment options exhausted’ 

In a statement, NHS England said cannabis-based products for medicinal use “should only be prescribed for indications where there is clear published evidence of benefit or UK Guidelines and in patients where there is a clinical need which cannot be met by a licensed medicine and where established treatment options have been exhausted”.

The move has been welcomed by some, while others say the new rules are still too restrictive.

The MS Society UK told BBC News the guidance made access to treatments “much more limited than we were led to believe”.

Genevieve Edwards, from the society, said: “We’re calling on NHS England to revisit this guidance urgently, and engage with neurological experts to ensure people with MS are not left disappointed and unable to access the right treatment for them.”

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Órla Ryan

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