Last fall, the United Kingdom finally legalized medical marijuana, thanks in part to the widely-popularized story of an epileptic child whose CBD medicine was seized by customs police. All across the British isles, parents of children suffering from serious spasticity disorders can turn to their doctors for highly-effective cannabis treatments, but many parents are finding that the cost of this medicine is out of reach.
British doctors are now allowed to prescribe medical marijuana products. But the cost of these new treatments is not covered under the National Health Service, Britain's nationally-funded health care system. The UK media is now highlighting the plight of another young boy to draw attention to this unfortunate situation.
Bailey Williams, a 17-year-old from Cardiff, Wales, has been diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. Williams has suffered as many as a hundred seizures in a single day, screeching, falling to the floor, and even turning blue.
“He’ll turn blue and be in a complete comatose state afterwards where he can’t walk or talk or do anything,” Bailey's mother, Rachel Rankmore, told Metro UK. Doctors prescribed a wide range of medications to help treat the symptoms of this illness, but the drugs had little effect.
Upon hearing the news that medical marijuana was legal, the Williams family consulted a neurologist in London who injected the boy with Bedrolite — a medical cannabis oil containing CBD along with a small amount of THC. Since receiving this treatment, Williams “has started to speak, interact in conversation, play with his toys,” Rankmore told the BBC. "He has a reduction in seizures, so he has a better quality of life.”
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The treatment has been successful, but the family is not sure if they can continue paying for it. Bailey's father Craig told the BBC that “if you were to purchase [Bedrolite] direct from Holland, it's £150 per bottle. Because the UK have got to import it, you've got your importation fees, you've then got your pharmacy costs on top, so that same £150 bottle becomes £500, which Bailey needs every two-and-a-half to three days.”
In order to maintain this highly effective therapy, the Williams family must cough up £4000 a month ($5000 US). Unable to afford these costs, the family has turned to crowdfunding, raising over $18,000, but Rankmore said that her family cannot rely on a lifetime of support from total strangers.
“It’s really frustrating because the law has been changed but it’s not being actioned on,” she told Metro. “We can’t keep asking people for help, we can’t keep begging for money. We might have to end up remortgaging our house, because we cannot go back to the way things were before we started on this medication.”
While the Williams family and countless other Brits struggle to afford medical marijuana, families across the Irish Sea are having much better luck. This June, Ireland kicked off a five-year pilot program that will allow local doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for a select number of serious disorders, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy-induced nausea. But unlike the UK, the cost of these treatments will be fully covered by insurance.
Hopefully the UK (and the US) can get their shit together and figure out a way to make medical marijuana financially acessable to the people who need it the most.