Belfast Telegraph

Three year battle over as Northern Ireland girl Sophia (7) granted cannabis oil licence

By Christine Carrigan

The parents of a girl who requires medicinal cannabis oil have said they are "relieved" that their three-and-a-half year fight for the drug is over.

Danielle Davis and Darren Gibson from Newtownards yesterday received a licence to administer the medication at home.

Their daughter, seven-year-old Sophia Gibson, suffers from Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy.

The extreme nature of Sophia's condition means that she can experience up to 100 seizures a day.

Two weeks ago, she was admitted to hospital after suffering a seizure so severe that she was placed into a drug-induced coma.

She is the first child in the UK to be granted a long-term licence for the use of Bedrocan whole plant medicinal cannabis oils, which will be prescribed through the NHS by her doctors.

Discussing the breakthrough, Danielle said: "We are very glad that Sophia's journey is over.

"It means that we don't have to go the hospital twice a day for treatment.

"We can get a prescription from the hospital which is basically the same as getting one from the normal chemist.

"Whether or not it will be prescribed weekly, monthly or whatever hasn't been decided yet.

"However it means less stress for Sophia because travelling to and from the hospital twice a day tired her out."

On Thursday Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that specialist doctors in the UK will be able to legally prescribe cannabis-derived medicinal products by autumn.

Those that meet safety and quality standards are to be made legal for patients with an "exceptional clinical need", Mr Javid said.

As it is a devolved matter, it will require legislative change before it is enforced in Northern Ireland.

Sophia's parents said they will continue to fight for others to have access to medical cannabis oil.

Emphasising that they want to help as many people as possible, the couple are urging the government to take successful worldwide studies into consideration when setting new guidelines for medicinal cannabis oil use in the UK.

Danielle said: "It is a bittersweet ending. We heard that the government is reviewing the use of medical cannabis oil but it could still be very restrictive.

"Is it only going to be for exceptional circumstances? If so how can they measure that?

"One doctor's view of exceptional circumstance will be different from another.

"Also it should not just be limited to epilepsy, there are people who suffer from conditions such as Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis who would benefit.

"I just hope that red tape won't be put up.

"We will help as many people as we can. We do not advise self-medication. Darren and I always stress that we are not doctors but we help by talking about Sophia's journey."

Darren added: "I hope that the government sees sense. We know what we went through with Sophia and we would never wish that on anyone else."

On Thursday the Department of Health confirmed that a licence to supply and possess medicinal cannabis had been granted to Sophia's parents.

Thanking the family for their patience, it added: "Our thoughts and sincere best wishes are with Sophia."

Belfast Telegraph

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