A British woman has put her house up for sale to help cover the costs of her daughter's medical cannabis treatment, an expense many British citizens are also struggling with since medical marijuana became legal last fall.
Last year, the United Kingdom authorized doctors in England, Scotland, and Wales to prescribe medical cannabis to treat epilepsy and other disorders. To date, no UK doctor has prescribed full-extract cannabis oil to a patient, forcing parents to buy their supply of medicine from private sellers. These privately-supplied medicines are not covered under the country's national health insurance, and can cost as much as $5,000 a month.
Elaine Levy, mother of a 25-year-old woman suffering from Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS), told The Guardian that she cannot continue to afford purchasing medical cannabis for her daughter unless she sells her house. “We just can’t do it any more,” she said. “It’s been a year and three months, but we’ve got less than a month’s medicine left and we’re now at the end of the road. Why am I having to beg when it was made legal last November?”
Since beginning her treatment, Fallon Levy is now able to walk without the assistance of a wheelchair. “Her IQ has gone up and she now tells me where to go,” her mother explained. “It’s not a cure but the result is phenomenal.”
Unfortunately, Levy has already spent over $37,000 on medical cannabis oils in the past year. So, selling her home is the only way she can continue to afford medical cannabis treatment into the future.
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Levy's plight is shared by many other parents of children with rare forms of epilepsy. Craig Williams and his family recently made headlines after being forced to use crowdfunding to pay for their child's $5,000-a-month medicine, joining hundreds of other parents struggling to afford MMJ.
This week, nine families, supported by campaign group End Our Pain, submitted an invoice to the UK government, demanding repayment of over $287,000 that they collectively spent on medical cannabis. The group then delivered letters to the prime minister, begging him to take action on the issue.
“By us not calling ambulances, having stays in hospitals, and being prescribed anti-seizure medicines, we must have collectively saved the health service thousands,” said Williams to The Guardian. “But we still can’t access [medical marijuana] without paying thousands ourselves. When they legalized it last year they gave us hope, but the system has failed us.”
Hope may be on the horizon, however. UK health officials are working with GW Pharmaceuticals to legalize the production of Epidyolex, a cannabis-derived medicine specifically designed to treat seizure disorders like LGS. This medicine has already been approved for use in the US, under the name Epidiolex, where it has proven to be highly effective.
In the US, Epidiolex cannot be covered by health insurance due to the federal prohibition of cannabis, leaving many American parents in the same situation as their English peers: unable to afford their children's treatment. However, if Epidyolex is authorized for use in the UK, it is possible that doctors will begin writing prescriptions for it, allowing the cost to be covered under national health insurance.