The mother of a severely epileptic girl wept as the medical cannabis she brought into the UK was confiscated at the airport.
Despite changes to the law, Emma Appleby had £4,600-worth of the oil taken off her as she landed at Southend Airport from Holland.
In November, cannabis-based medicines were made legal in the UK but many parents still struggle to get prescriptions, partly due to reluctance in the medical community.
Emma Appleby, Lee Moore and daughter Teagan Appleby at London Southend Airport (Picture: PA)Ms Appleby’s daughter Teagan suffers from a rare chromosomal disorder called Isodicentric 15 as well as a form of paediatric epilepsy, which causes up to 300 seizures a day.
The mother, from Aylesham near Dover, says she has no choice but to seek medicinal cannabis from outside the UK for her nine-year-old, who suffered a seizure on the flight home.
The family flew out on Thursday and got the medicine prescribed by a paediatric neurologist at the Erasmus Hospital in Rotterdam.
They then collected it from a pharmacy and paid using their own and fundraised money.
Ms Appleby was comforted at the airport by fellow campaigner Hannah Deacon, who last year became the first person to be allowed to bring THC oil into the UK through an airport for her seven-year-old son Alfie Dingley, who has epilepsy.
NHS England guidance says it expects that cannabis-based products for medicinal use should ‘only be prescribed for indications where there is clear published evidence of benefit’ and for ‘patients where there is a clinical need which cannot be met by a licensed medicine and where established treatment options have been exhausted.’
‘I’m really gutted. They just took everything,’ said Ms Appleby who said authorities had apparently been notified of their arrival via social media.
She says border staff were told not to destroy the medicine but to seize it and hold it, and she hopes to apply for an import licence to get it back.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in the Commons last month that his ‘heart goes out’ to parents experiencing anguish over the struggle to obtain medicinal cannabis.
He added he is working to ‘unblock’ some of the challenges but said any changes must be ‘clinician-led.’
Tory MP Sir Mike Penning, co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Medical Cannabis Under Prescription, said: ‘This is a shattering blow for Emma and Teagan.
‘It’s a damning indictment of the way this policy has been implemented.’
‘I will be urging all my parliamentary colleagues to get this medicine returned to Emma soonest and demanding that the Department for Health, the NHS and everyone involved gets together urgently so families don’t have to go through the stress and trauma of travelling abroad to get a medicine that is now legal here.
‘We need compassion not entrenched positions.’
Teagan suffers from a rare chromosomal disorder and a form of epilepsy (Picture: PA)
The family says they have no choice but to get medical cannabis overseas (Picture: PA)Peter Carroll, director of campaign group End Our Pain said ‘the law was changed for a reason’ and was done so on scientific advice.
‘To put these families who have already got this stress and worry of caring for very sick children through all the trauma – Emma has been passed from pillar to post, she’s tried to do the right thing at every stage of this process.
‘It’s totally wrong. It’s time now for compassion to dictate what happens next and we’ll be unstinting in our fight to get this medicine back for Emma and, just as importantly, to make sure this doesn’t happen for any other family.
Mr Carroll said the Home Office was approached for an import licence on compassionate grounds to help Teagan ahead of the journey but it was refused.
Ms Appleby’s MP, Conservative Charlie Elphicke, has been putting pressure on the Home Office to grant a licence for cannabis oil treatment for Teagan.
A Government spokesman said: ‘We took swift action to help those who can benefit from cannabis-based medicinal products and specialist doctors are now able to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use to patients who have an unmet need and where there is evidence of benefit.
‘The decision to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use is a clinical decision for specialist hospital doctors, made with patients and their families, taking into account clinical guidance, which is based on the best international evidence.
‘It is unlawful to import unlicensed cannabis-based products for medicinal use to the UK without the prescription of a specialist doctor and a Home Office importation licence.
‘These products can be imported using appropriately licensed pharmaceutical wholesalers.’