BBC’s Horizon explores the use of medicinal cannabis

Last night’s programme investigated uses of cannabis and how it is stopping one boy’s life threatening epileptic seizures. 

Credit: BBC/Andrew Fleming
  BBC Horizon last night covered the story of 8-year-old who was born with a life threatening form of epilepsy (PCDH19). At the age of five, Alfie was hospitalised weekly for severe fits and he relied on steroids. After researching alternative therapies, Hannah, Alfie’s mum, moved the family to Holland to enable Alfie to receive cannabis oil as a medication. Speaking on Horizon, Hannah explained the effect of Alfie taking the oil after just five weeks. She explained: “He started to get better and his seizures stopped and it was just absolutely amazing. It was incredible”.  In June 2018 Alfie was granted the first permanent medicinal cannabis licence in the UK. Speaking on the programme, Dr David McCormick, a consultant paediatric neurologist, explained how much more sociable and chatty Alfie is since he has taken the cannabis oil, and how Alfie can now hold eye contact. Alfie now receives an NHS prescription for the cannabis oil. Dr Javid Abdelmoneim, the presenter and investigator in the documentary, said: “Prescribing cannabis is still highly controversial.” He noted that cannabis has been used as a medicine for over 20 years in Israel and one observational study of 3,000 elderly patients at Israels’ Niamedic geriatric clinic showed a 40% reduction in falls and pain levels were halved. Carly Barton also appeared in the documentary as the first person in the UK to be legally prescribed cannabis to treat the chronic pain she suffered following a stroke in her early 20s. Carly used her savings to pay for the three-month private prescription but going forward she is hoping to get her prescription on the NHS. Earlier this month NICE published its draft recommendations on the use of cannabis-based medicinal products. The NICE draft guidance and NHS England review highlight need for more research on cannabis-based medicinal products. Horizon ended with the presenter concluding that despite there being compelling stories that demonstrate the positive results of taking cannabis oil for certain medical conditions, more clinical trials are needed. You can watch the BBC programme here. You can also read Gogglebox’s Steph and Doms’ story about their epileptic son and their investigations into using cannabis oil.                    
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