Severely epileptic girl first to be prescribed medical cannabis but still cannot acquire in the UK

  • Jorja Emerson is believed to be the first child prescribed medical cannabis in the UK since the law changed
  • The 2-year-old has a severe form of epilepsy, suffering up to 30 seizures a day
  • The private prescription would cost around £3,000 every 3 months
  • The family from Ireland would have to travel to London to pick up the prescription
  • Jorja’s Father, Robin, has called for the drug to be available on the NHS

The first child to be prescribed medical cannabis in the UK following legalisation in November is still unable to gain access.

Jorja Emerson, 2, is diagnosed with severe epilepsy, suffering up to 30 seizures a day. Her family have campaigned hard to secure the landmark prescription, but may not be able to

The family went to a private hospital in London earlier this week to get the medication, which was finally prescribed on Monday, only to discover that this was only the start of obtaining treatment.

Jorja’s father, Robin Emerson, claims he is unable to get the drug because no UK pharmacy currently holds a licence to sell it. Speaking to The Independent, Robin explained his frustration with the process of trying to get life-saving medicine for his daughter:

“Jorja is entitled to her medication and it’s legal. There should be no issue.

British epileptic medical cannabis patient
Jorja Emerson with her father, Robin.

“We are letting bureaucracy get in the way of saving children’s lives.”

Robin stressed that his daughter urgently needs cannabis treatment, especially due to a chest infection which is “setting off her seizures.”

Responding to the father’s plea, a spokesman for the Government highlighted that while medical cannabis cannot be sold directly from a pharmacy, it “can be imported using appropriately licensed pharmaceutical wholesalers.”

“There are already a range of products that can be supplied and we are working closely with a range of other manufacturers to ensure a wider range is available for specialists to prescribe for their patients,” he said.

[cannabis treatment] is the difference between Jorja living and dying.
Robin Emmerson

The spokesman also mentioned that there are already a small number of patients receiving the treatment following lawful importation, and so far, there have been no Home Office import licences refused from appropriately licensed pharmaceutical wholesalers in relation to medical cannabis.

The spokesman refused to comment on Jorja’s case.

Even though Mr Emerson picked up the prescription on Monday, importing the drug could take weeks or months.

UK Medical cannabis patient waiting for prescription
Jorja: The first child to be prescribed legal medical cannabis in the UK following changes in the law

Sir Mike Penning MP, who co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prescribed Use of Medical Cannabis, commented on the case:

“Parents like Robin already have more than a head full, coping with the stresses and strains of caring for very sick children.

“The last thing they need is a long and tortuous process to actually get the medicine that’s been prescribed.

“This assault course of bureaucracy needs sorting out once and for all.

“But in the meantime, if this prescription isn’t sorted soon I’m minded to ask a small cross party group of MPs led by myself and my co-chair Tonia Antoniazzi to go and get it from Canada and give it to Robin for Jorja.”

Jorja was only able to attain a private prescription and will cost her family £3,000 per month.

Speaking on radio talk-show LBC, Mr. Emerson explained:

“It’s looking at a cost of around £3,000 at the moment every three months, plus flights, hotels because I have to travel back to London every time,” he told host Eddie Mair.

Medical Cannabis Father on Radio Show
Robin Emerson appearing on LBC to discuss his daughter’s case

“[The prescription] has to go to a government department now, then they have to approve it, then they will speak with the pharmaceutical company in Canada to arrange how to get it across.

“They’re looking at a period of around seven to 14 days.”

Robin said cannabis treatment is “the difference between her living and dying,” and is refusing to leave London until he has obtained the drug.

How many families desperately needing a medical cannabis prescription will be able to afford £1,000 a month? How many children desperately needing medical cannabis to live a normal life, or live at all, can wait weeks or months for a prescription?

Medical cannabis should be readily available for all who need it, rich or poor, child or adult. How much longer can the British Government deny its citizens their right to a choice to a safe medication?

References and further Reading