Seven-year-old girl granted long term licence for medical cannabis

Sophia Gibson with her parents Darren and Danielle (Family handout/PA) Credit: Press Association Images

A young girl from Northern Ireland has been granted a long-term licence for the use of medicinal cannabis.

Sophia Gibson, seven, from Newtownards, Co Down, has a genetic condition which causes what her family describe as “frequent and dangerous fits”.

She has Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy.

Her mother Danielle said cannabis oil relieves the symptoms of Sophia’s condition and could drastically reduce the number of seizures she endures.

Earlier this week Sophia was admitted to hospital after suffering a severe seizure.

She was placed into a drug-induced coma in intensive care to recover.

On Friday it was announced she has been granted the first long-term licence for the use of medical cannabis in the UK.

The licence is for the use of Bedrocan whole plant medical cannabis oils, to be prescribed through the NHS by her doctors.

The decision was made on the recommendation of a panel of medical experts set up by the Home Office earlier this year to look at cases where individuals have applied for a licence to use medicinal cannabis.

Sophie’s mum Danielle described the decision as “life saving”.

“This decision is a life changer and a life saver for Sophia,” she said.

“But no family should have to fight this hard, for so long, for something that so obviously has a benefit.

“The fight has been exhausting but the relief is immense.

“We would like to thank each and every person who supported Sophia and our family through this distressing journey.

“The years of battling have finally paid off.”

Danielle added that she  hopes others will now be able to access the treatment into the UK instead of having to go abroad.

She had previously taken her daughter to the Netherlands to receive the treatment.

“We hope that following Sophia’s journey other children and adults across the UK can access the same treatment without having to uproot their lives to travel or move abroad,” she said.

“Cannabis should be rescheduled and doctors should be able to prescribe it.

“We hope we that the decision made today will pave the way for the many others who should have access to medical cannabis.

“We will continue to work to make it accessible for others and educate people on the use of medicinal cannabis so there isn’t a stigma or misconception surrounding it anymore.

“Now Sophia can have her medicine her life will begin to improve and we can enjoy life as a family and look forward to living a more normal family life.”

She thanked her MP Jim Shannon for his support, as well as Peter Carroll from the End Our Pain Campaign.

Mr Carroll said Friday’s decision will give hope to hundreds of others, and paid tribute to the family’s dignity.

“Sophia’s success offers hope to many hundreds who will want to access medical cannabis,” he said.

“But getting her application through has shown that how the panel operates needs urgent reform if other families are to benefit.

“The emphasis on having to demonstrate that medical cannabis has worked is highly unfair as it implies that the patient should undertake the arduous journey and suffer the heavy expense of going abroad to a country in which medical cannabis is legal before making an application.

“It’s been an honour to support this family. Their dignity under the most extreme anxiety over such a period has been remarkable. Our work goes on to secure the rescheduling of cannabis.”

Earlier this month, a special licence was granted for Billy Caldwell, 12, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, to be treated with medicinal cannabis.

He is severely epileptic.

A spokesman for the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said: “We can confirm a licence for medicinal use of cannabis has been issued in line with a recommendation from the expert panel.”

Alfie Dingley, six, from Warwickshire, became the first person in the UK to receive a licence to be treated with medicinal cannabis, the Home Office said.

Earlier this week, his mother Hannah was allowed to enter the UK with medicinal cannabis oil for her son who suffers from epilepsy.