The mother of a six-year-old who admitted to smuggling an illegal cannabis-based drug into the country to treat her son’s epilepsy has become the first person to source the drug legally in Scotland.
Karen Gray previously travelled to the Netherlands every few months to buy oil from the whole cannabis plant, which contains the active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The 44-year-old smuggled it to the UK, as it is the only treatment she has found to improve her son Murray’s debilitating seizures.
Gray, from Edinburgh feared she would be caught by Customs officials.
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.
“It’s amazing news,” said Gray. “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 22 per cent THC.
British law was changed last year to allow prescription of medical cannabis, but only containing CBD, not THC. The British Paediatric Neurology Association says that THC may negatively affect brain development, structure and mental health.
Murray received his first course of Epidiolex, a legal drug containing CBD, in August 2018. It 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.
Gray is 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 £1,500 a month, which they are sourcing from donations.
“It’s been a huge struggle. The NHS need to step in and pay for it,” she said.
Gray is campaigning with another Scottish mother, Lisa Quarrell, whose son Cole Thomson also takes Bedrolite for epilepsy, which Quarrell has been able to source from a London practice.
Both mothers have called on Cabinet Secretary for Health Jeanne Freeman to authorise “compassionate funding” for the drug from NHS Scotland. They were both part of the group which successfully petitioned Downing Street last year 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.
“The Scottish Government says there’s nothing they can do, but there is,” she said.
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.”