The Netherlands government has confirmed it will continue to supply Bedrocan oil (cannabis-based medicine) for existing UK prescriptions until 1 July 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.
This comes after Brexit took effect on 1 January 2021, and led to prescriptions issued in the UK no longer being honoured and dispensed by EU member states.
This left around 40 children with severe epilepsy, who currently have UK prescriptions for cannabis oil that they source from the Netherlands, in a serious and vulnerable position. A problem with the supply of these medicines would put them at risk of more, more severe or prolonged seizures.
The DHSC added that it will use the time between now and July to come up with a more permanent solution.
Philip Lee, chief executive of Epilepsy Action, said: “We are pleased to see the action taken by the DHSC to secure continued access to finished Bedrocan oils for those with UK prescriptions on a temporary basis. But this is only a short-term fix in more ways than one.
“There is now a new deadline of 1 July 2021 to find a permanent solution to these supply issues. The government also needs to apply the same effort and urgency to address the wider issues faced by families trying to access cannabis-based medicines for children with intractable epilepsy – namely a lack of NHS access and funding.
“Some families are still having to find up to £2,500 every month to cover the costs of private prescriptions. Epilepsy Action has written to the Prime Minister urging him to take comprehensive action to remove barriers to accessing these products on the NHS and a long-term funding settlement for those who are currently accessing privately.
“Swift, comprehensive action, and a system of financial support, will give those affected the certainty and reassurance they so desperately need. We will continue to work with End Our Pain and the families involved to find a long-term solution.”
There is more information about cannabis-based medicines on the Epilepsy Action website.