Billy Caldwell has been discharged from the hospital after resuming treatment with medicinal cannabis oil. The U.K. boy made international headlines after border officials confiscated his medicine at Heathrow Airport last week. The main active ingredient of the medication is CBD, but it also has enough THC to make it a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
Charlotte Caldwell, Billy’s mother, told the BBC that the improvement in the boy’s condition proves the medicine works. But she also said that the government should change its policy in order to help other sick children.
“The fact that Billy has been discharged is testimony to the effectiveness of the treatment and underlines how vital it is that every child and every single family affected in our country should have immediate access to the very same medication,” she said.
Billy began taking the medicine Tilray in the United States in 2016. Then last year, Billy became the first U.K. patient to receive a prescription for a medical marijuana treatment. But last month, the government announced that those prescriptions would end. So with one dose of the medication remaining, Billy and Charlotte flew to Canada for help. The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto replenished Billy’s medicine, and the pair returned home. They were met by border officials when they arrived at Heathrow Airport on June 11, and Billy’s medication was confiscated.
Within hours of the first missed dose, Billy had his first epileptic seizure in months. After suffering a series of several more seizures, paramedics rushed Billy to the hospital on June 15.
Government Returned Medicine Saturday
At first, the U.K. government said that it would not return Billy’s medicine. Instead, the Home Office suggested the Caldwells seek a license for the medicine from the government of Northern Ireland, where they live. But with the boy’s condition worsening, Home Secretary Sajid Javid relented and issued a 20-day temporary license for the medication.
Afterward, Charlotte told reporters that compassion had won out over bureaucracy.
“I truly believe that somewhere in the Home Office there’s someone with a heart, and I truly believe that Billy was pulling on their heartstrings,” she said.
Charlotte also said that others should be spared what she and Billy have had to endure.
“No other family should have to go through this sort of ordeal, traveling halfway round the world to get medication which should be freely available,” she said. “Children are dying in our country and it needs to stop now.”
By Monday, Billy was well enough to leave the hospital. After the boy’s release, Charlotte said it was time for healthcare professionals, not politicians, to quickly decide the issue.
“I will demand that the health department, not the Home Office, takes responsibility for providing access to medication for these incredibly sick children—this meeting must take place within 24 hours,” she said. “Children in our country are dying and suffering beyond imagination.”
MP Sir Mike Penning is leading a parliamentary group studying medical marijuana. He agrees that decisions should be made by doctors, and said that Britain’s current laws are “bizarre and cruel.”
“Medical cannabis is a health issue, not a misuse of drugs issue,” Penning said. “It’s about patients and relieving suffering.”