Belfast Telegraph

DUP gives backing to Billy Caldwell receiving cannabis medication

The DUP have given their backing to Northern Ireland boy Billy Caldwell receiving access to medicinal cannabis oil which his mother says helps control his seizures and could even safe his life.

The party had previously remained tight lipped on the issue and were not part of a five party grouping (SDLP, Sinn Fein, UUP, Alliance and Greens) from Northern Ireland which backed allowing access to cannabis oil on the NHS earlier this month.

However a DUP spokesperson has now said that the party is in favour of Billy getting access to the medication until a final recommendation has been made on the issue from medical experts.

Billy has a rare form of epilepsy and has been denied access to the medication following a ruling from the Home Office.

His mum Charlotte took Billy to Canada retrieve the medication but it was then seized at Heathrow Airport as they attempted to return to Northern Ireland.

She accused Home Office Minister Nick Hurd of having “likely signed my son’s death warrant” following the seizure.

Ms Caldwell is still awaiting an appointment with consultants recommended by the Home Office.

She said her son had suffered his first seizure in 300 days  after being denied the medication.

A DUP spokesperson confirmed that they had met with Billy's family to discuss the issue.

"DUP representatives have met with the Caldwell family on many occasions and continue to make representations on their behalf. MPs will usually be only able to facilitate meetings with Ministers on behalf of their own constituents however," the spokesperson said.

"The party pursues an evidence-based approach to our position on cannabis. We do not support legalisation of cannabis for recreational purposes.

"Trials are ongoing to test cannabis-based drugs for conditions such as epilepsy in children, glaucoma and cancer pain. We recognise that patients and their families will be keen to have access to innovative treatments immediately but it is necessary that such drugs are rigorously tested and all processes followed to ensure full safety and effectiveness."

The spokesperson said the party was in favour of Billy receiving the medication until a final decision on the issue has been made.

"In the absence of decisions by such expert bodies, consideration has been given to specific process where medication could be provided on an individual basis at the request of an individual clinician to a particular patient for a particular condition," the spokesperson said.

"We are supportive of such an approach until final decisions are made on more general availability."

The latest development comes after Ms Caldwell hit out at the links between Theresa May's husband and companies which supply the drug.

The Daily Mirror reported Philip May's Capital Group is the largest investor in GW Pharmaceuticals, which produces cannabis oil - which Billy Caldwell had been using for his treatment - for sale in a foreign market.

Speaking to the paper, Billy's mother Charlotte Caldwell said: "Why is my son being left to die in his own country by his own government? I can tell you why, greed and hypocrisy and it’s a recipe that will kill Billy.”

Billy Caldwell requires cannabis oil to prevent seizures.

Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy at Heathrow Airport (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

UK-based cannabis-legalisation group United Patients Alliance reported in April GW Pharmaceuticals has produced a medicine extracted from the raw cannabis plant called Sativex, used for Multiple Sclerosis patients, as well as Epidiolex, which is made using purified cannabinoid (a component part of cannabis) CBD.

It also highlighted that husband of UK Home Office minister Victoria Atkins is a managing director of British Sugar which grows raw cannabis to supply GW to manufacture Epidolex.

Victoria Atkins has previously spoken out against the legalisation of cannabis.

Billy Caldwell with his mother Charlotte


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