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UK: Government 'defending the indefensible' over Alfie Dingley's request for cannabis treatment
Tuesday 20 Feb 2018
The Government have been accused of "defending the indefensible" after coming under pressure from MPs to grant access to medical cannabis to a six-year-old epilepsy sufferer.
Alfie Dingley, from Warwickshire, has a rare and extreme form of epilepsy and can suffer up to 30 seizures a day.
His parents, Hannah Deacon and Drew Dingley, want to treat him with medical cannabis, which he was treated with in the Netherlands last year but is illegal in the UK.
Alfie's use of cannabis treatment is said to reduce both the severity and the frequency of his clusters of seizures, coming once every 27 days rather than every 7-10 days.
It has been claimed the youngster faces "early psychosis and a premature death" if he has to revert to the steroid-based treatment he received before travelling to the Netherlands.
Home Office minister Nick Hurd, answering an urgent question in the House of Commons about the case on Tuesday, said both he and the Government "sympathise deeply" with Alfie and his family.
The Tory MP insisted ministers "want to help try and find a solution within the existing regulation" but pushed back against any imminent change in law to allow Alfie the medical use of cannabis.
Mr Hurd highlighted the UK's "clear regime" for the testing of medicines as he stated the Government would not currently issue licences for the personal consumption of cannabis, because it is listed as a schedule one drug.
"The current situation is that cannabis in its raw form is not recognised in the UK as having any medicinal benefits," he said.
The Government will wait for the outcome of a World Health Organisation review of medical cannabis "before considering any next steps", the minister added.
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Mr Hurd told MPs: "The whole House will understand it is a natural desire for parents to do everything they can to ensure their children do not suffer unnecessarily.
"But we also need to make sure that cannabis is subjected to the same regulatory framework that applies to all medicines in the UK.
"We must ensure that only medicines that have been tested for their safety to the correct standard are prescribed for UK children."
He also noted how MPs will have another chance to debate the issue on Friday, when Labour MP Paul Flynn is set to give a second reading to his Private Member's Bill on allowing the production, supply, possession and use of cannabis and cannabis resin for medicinal purposes.
Mr Hurd's comments in Parliament brought fierce criticism from Maggie Deacon, Alfie's grandmother, although she welcomed his offer to meet with the family.
"The minister was defending the indefensible - allowing my grandson to suffer or die when he can be helped," she said.
"We welcome the minister's commitment to meet us and try to find a way forward, but it has to be soon - time is running out.
"The medicine exists. The Dutch medics have prescribed it and strongly recommended its continuing use.
"We don't need another trial. Alfie has taken the medicine in Holland and its worked. That's the only trial that matters for Alfie."
Conservative backbencher Crispin Blunt, who asked the urgent question of Mr Hurd, described Alfie's situation as an "open and shut case" on health grounds.
He said: "Failure of the Government to move from its current position would sentence Alfie back to the steroid-based treatment he was receiving before he went to the Netherlands, which is likely to give him early psychosis and a premature death."
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