Northern Ireland news

Private Canadian firm to provide Co Down epileptic girl with medicinal cannabis

Three-year-old Jorja Emerson from Dundonald suffers from severe epilepsy

THE life a three-year-old Co Down girl with severe epilepsy has been "saved" by a private medicinal cannabis company who have given her free access to treatment not provided by the NHS, according to her father.

Jorja Emerson from Dundonald is believed to be the first child in the UK to be prescribed medical cannabis after the drug was rescheduled last year.

The prescription was written by a private doctor in London in December and since then Jorja's father, Robin Emerson, claims the NHS wouldn't fund the drug and he has been forced to pay around £1,000 per month for treatment.

The little girl suffered up to 30 seizures a day and her family say the medication is "the difference between her living and dying" but that they are struggling to meet the costs and have fundraised more than £30,000 since her diagnosis in 2017.

Canadian medical cannabis producer Aphria has agreed to provide Jorja with the drug free of charge.

"Aphria have done what the NHS should have done and put Jorja first," Mr Emerson said.

"The team in Canada are full of emotion knowing that they have saved my daughter's life.

The development comes eight months after a landmark ruling led to a seven-year-old Co Down girl being granted the first long-term licence for the use of medicinal cannabis in the UK.

Sophia Gibson, from Newtownards, who also suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, was granted the licence by an expert panel set up by the British government following a three-year battle by her parents.

Co Tyrone schoolboy Billy Caldwell (13) has also been granted a similar licence to treat his epilepsy.

Following a change in the law on November 1, the drug was rescheduled which meant that medicinal cannabis oil can be prescribed - but only where other treatment options have been exhausted.

Mr Emerson said this made obtaining a prescription difficult.

"I was fearing that this day would never come," he said.

"I hope this day paves the way for many other clinicians to have the confidence to prescribe."

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