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Northern Ireland boy Billy first in UK to use medicinal cannabis

By Cate McCurry

A Co Tyrone boy who suffers from a life-threatening form of epilepsy has become the first person in the UK to be prescribed medicinal cannabis to help treat his illness.

Eleven-year-old Billy Caldwell from Castlederg has a severe form of epilepsy that has seen him endure daily seizures.

His mother Charlotte was handed an NHS prescription for cannabis oil yesterday - the first in UK medical history.

It comes following months of campaigning and a 150-mile charity walk last month.

He has been prescribed medicinal cannabis containing the cannabinoids Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is illegal in Northern Ireland.

A teary-eyed Charlotte said it was a day they long hoped for but never thought would happen.

"It's been an extremely long and tiring battle for us," she said.

"It's been an amazing day. I'm still in shock and can't believe it has happened.

"It means so much to us that Billy can receive his medicine at home.

"He's now 82-days seizure free which is an amazing and incredible feeling. I'm very proud of him.

"I never saw this day coming, even though I knew that we had a good case."

The family spent seven months in Los Angeles - where medicinal and recreational cannabis is legal - so Billy could receive doses of cannabis oil.

They had raised cash to get him there and he had been free from the seizures since starting the drug.

But spiralling medical costs meant the pair had to return home which prompted Charlotte to start a campaign so Billy could receive treatment in Northern Ireland.

Billy's treatment is provided by Dr James Linden of Greenlight Medicines in Dublin.

Dr Linden will send the doses of cannabis oil to a hospital in Northern Ireland, most likely the Royal Victoria Hospital, who will supply it to Charlotte.

"This is one step closer for him," she added.

"The biggest step was getting the prescription written and into my hand.

"It was fantastic to have it in writing. This is my wee boy's life-saving medicine that is keeping his life-threatening seizures at bay.

"This will hopefully keep him well."

Charlotte explained that it has "opened the doors" for others who may be able to benefit from medicinal cannabis across Northern Ireland.

She continued: "The next step is to secure Billy's brain scan to know whether he can undergo surgery. We also have a legal team putting together Billy's Law which is a medicinal cannabis bill which is going to Stormont through Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff.

"That will happen when Stormont is up and running again."

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