New hope of cannabis oil supply for family of severely ill boy

Ryan Hooper, PA
·3-min read

The mother of a seriously ill 11-year-old boy said she has been given fresh hope that a “life-saving” drug which keeps him out of hospital will be produced in the UK after supplies from Europe were hit by Britain leaving the EU single market and customs union.

Joanne Griffiths said she was buoyed by an announcement from Dutch firm Transvaal Apotheek that it was working with Scottish company Target Healthcare to produce the cannabis oil product which severely reduces the number of seizures her epileptic son Ben has.

Mrs Griffiths, 45, from Preston, Lancashire, said: “It’s amazing news, it’s fantastic.

“It will be exactly the same product, same method to produce, the same medicine, essentially.

“To have the same product made here in the UK is wonderful and hopefully means people will be able to access it much easier.

“We have obviously been very keen to keep Ben and other children out of hospital, so by keeping Ben on the same product we think we’ve got a very good chance of that.

“We don’t think we are in any danger if we can keep the supply going.”

Arwin Ramcharan, Transvaal Apotheek’s co-owner, said: “At the moment we are working with Target Healthcare and the relevant health departments.

“But, if everything goes to plan, then we think the product will be produced and available for use in the UK in July this year.”

Ben, who has four older sisters and a twin brother, has suffered seizures since birth. He has brain damage, cerebral palsy and autism.

At its worst, he has up to 300 seizures a day, with the worst ones lasting for up to an hour.

But the cannabis oil he has been on for the last two years has given him the first seizure-free days of his life. He now typically has no more than five in a day, usually lasting just a few seconds.

Joanne and Paul Griffith with their son Ben
Joanne and Paul Griffith with their son Ben (Handout/PA)

There were concerns at the turn of the year that Ben’s condition would deteriorate after supplies of the cannabis oil shipped in from the Netherlands were halted because there was no agreement between the EU and the UK on importing prescriptions.

Mrs Griffiths said her son’s supplies, which had been due to run out this month, were boosted after the UK Government struck a temporary deal with Dutch authorities to supply cannabis oil until July.

Mrs Griffiths said: “We’re really grateful that the Government seems to be listening and recognised the need for at least the short-term solution.

“The prospect of it being produced in the UK, though, is really good news because it just means parents don’t need to travel abroad – when they can, anyway – to try and bring it back.

“We are also hopeful that the Government might be able to fund it here in the UK if it’s being made here too.”

Sam Mountney, senior policy and campaigners officer at charity Epilepsy Action, said: “We’ve been involved in discussions with the Department of Health and Social Care, along with affected families, around supplying oils in the UK post-Brexit.

“It is our understanding that these talks are on-going and we will continue to work with the department and others to bring about a long-term solution that works for these families.”