A medical cannabis company has “saved” the life of a severely epileptic girl by giving her free access to treatment not provided to her by the NHS, according to her father.
Jorja Emerson, three, reportedly became the first UK child to be prescribed medical cannabis in December after the drug was rescheduled.
The prescription was written by a private doctor and since it was issued Jorja’s father Robin Emerson claims to have had to pay around £1,000 per month to get the treatment.
The drugs have helped reduce the number of daily seizures Jorja suffers from around 30 to just three or four, Mr Emerson said.
The NHS has refused to pay for Jorja’s treatment despite rules on prescribing the drug being relaxed last year, he added.
With the family struggling to meet the costs, Canadian medical cannabis producer Aphria has agreed to provide Jorja with treatment free of charge.
Mr Emerson said he “honestly does not know” what he would have done had the company not agreed to provide the treatment for Jorja, who is from Dundonald in Co Down, Northern Ireland.
Mr Emerson said he has had to travel to London from Northern Ireland to get the treatment.
He added: “Until this is sorted, families will have to continue travelling abroad to obtain medicine for their children illegally, or like me, go private to get help for our children.
“Aphria have done what the NHS should have done and put Jorja first.
“The team in Canada are full of emotion knowing that they have saved my daughter’s life.”
Children are “dying and suffering” in the UK because of poor access to medical cannabis treatment, he added.
Mr Emerson said Jorja’s care has cost around £30,000 since she was diagnosed with the condition in 2017, with family, friends and well-wishers helping to pay her medical bills.
Medical cannabis was rescheduled in November to allow doctors to prescribe the products to patients in the UK.
However the medicines can only prescribed by a specialist doctor – not a GP – on a case-by-case basis once other treatment options have been exhausted.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We sympathise with those families dealing so courageously with distressing conditions and the government has changed the law so specialist doctors prescribe cannabis based medical products where there is a clinical evidence of benefit.
“As Mr Emerson and his daughter reside in Northern Ireland, the decision to prescribe and fund on-going treatment on the NHS will be the responsibility of Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland.”