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Teagan Appleby: Epileptic girl's seized medical cannabis returned to mother

Chris Baynes

A British mother who had medical cannabis for her severely epileptic daughter seized by Border Force officials has had the “life-changing” drug returned to her.

Emma Appleby, whose nine-year-old daughter Teagan suffers from a rare disorder which causes seizures multiple times a day, had a month’s supply of the drug confiscated at Gatwick Airport after flying back from the Netherlands on 6 June.

She was handed back the THC oil and cannabidiol (CBD) on Saturday, but said the experience had left her “exhausted and drained”.

Ms Appleby, from Aylesham in Kent, said: “All I want is the best for my daughter – medical cannabis has transformed her life.

“Since being administered with THC- bearing medical cannabis, Teagan’s seizure rate has plummeted from as many as 300 seizures a day to now maybe just a couple a day, and only when she is sleeping.

“But I am being forced to raise thousands of pounds to pay privately for it, and to pay hundreds of pounds more to go abroad to actually get it and then fight all the bureaucracy to get it through customs.”

She added: “I plead from the bottom of my heart to [health secretary] Matt Hancock and the NHS to sort this out. For the love of God, parents like me just can’t take much more either financially or emotionally.

“We are at breaking point and no-one seems to be getting a grip on this.”

Ms Appleby had cannabis oil worth £2,500 confiscated at Gatwick after travelling to the Netherlands to collect it.

It was the second time she has had the medication seized by the Border Force. Officials confiscated a three-month supply of the drug at Southend Airport in Essex in April.

After the first batch was seized, Ms Appleby and her partner Lee had to obtain a prescription from a specialist UK consultant to get it back.

But despite having a private prescription with her at Gatwick, she was told she also needed an import licence.

The law in the UK was changed last November to make access to medical cannabis legal following high-profile cases of epileptic children being blocked accessing the drug.

But parents have been struggling to secure prescriptions - in part due to reluctance among doctors deterred by a lack of evidence on safety and effectiveness.

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 in “patients where there is a clinical need which cannot be met by a licensed medicine and where established treatment options have been exhausted”.

The family of a severely epileptic teenager this week launched a legal challenge against the NHS and department of health in Northern Ireland over access to his cannabis-based medicine.

Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy, 13, lodged legal papers in Belfast to contest the Health and Social Care Northern Ireland decision to block GPs from prescribing the drug.

Peter Carroll, director of the campaign group End Our Pain, said children and their families were “suffering unnecessarily”.

He added: “Between them, the NHS and the medical professional bodies have issued guidance on prescribing medical cannabis that is so restrictive that even the high profile paediatric epilepsy cases of last year would most likely not qualify for a prescription under them.

“The medical profession seem totally resistant to accepting any evidence that medical cannabis works unless it comes from the same sort of trials that conventional pharmaceutical drugs go through.”