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Leading doctors and scientists call for UK paediatricians to recognise the value of medical cannabis for childhood epilepsy

A little girl looking at the camera

The British Paediatric Neurology Association (BPNA) recently produced new guidance on the prescription of cannabis medicines for children with epilepsy. However, the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (UKMCCS) and Drug Science fundamentally disagree with this guidance. Expert clinicians from both organisations have produced a critique to provide commentary, evidence and further crucial information to guide paediatricians to make their own informed decisions about treatment.

In the BPNA’s guidance, there is no recognition that the children in question have uncontrolled, drug-resistant epilepsy. They have a poor quality of life, often difficulties in school, in play and at home, and the whole family suffer from the consequences. In their commentary, the Society and Drug Science point out that recurrent seizures damage the developing brain and such severe seizures are associated with a risk of status epilepticus and death. The Society and Drug Science believe that clinicians must explore every avenue in an attempt to alleviate the seizures.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has recently produced guidance which is supportive of continuing prescription for children already on a cannabis product but sadly, the BPNA will not change its stance on the subject. As a result, there are now only two prescribers in the UK, one of whom is retiring and neither taking on new patients.

This means over 50 children currently accessing their prescribed cannabis-based medicines are relying on just one doctor for continuing access to the only treatments that have kept them well and reduced hospital and ITU admissions. And, with no new children currently able to access a prescription, seriously ill children are at real risk of imminent harm.

Professor Mike Barnes, Chair of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society said:

“Professor Helen Cross was the first clinician to prescribe an unlicensed cannabis-based medicine for childhood epilepsy in 2003. That was a brave and correct move when a child was in extremis. It is a pity that the BPNA’s current executive committee members have reverted to an old and outdated paradigm of efficacy to the clear detriment of many thousands of children in the UK.

The Society will teach any paediatric doctor – free of charge – how to prescribe medical cannabis products and provide ongoing mentoring and support.

We call for recognition of the value of unlicensed cannabis-based medicinal products by sensible and caring paediatricians in the UK.”

David Badcock, Chief Executive Officer of Drug Science said:

“Our research into childhood intractable epilepsy clearly and consistently shows that the benefits of whole-plant medical cannabis far outweigh any associated risks.

The parents we have spoken to, as part of this work, find medical cannabis to be the most effective treatment for their child’s condition. Yet the BPNA appear to have ignored our evidence and these experiences. Instead, they seem to be wilfully denying access to legal medicines, and causing needless distress for families who deserve better.”

How to read the document

The original wording from the BPNA is retained in black. Society and Drug Science comments and additions are highlighted in green.

  1. Download The Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society and Drug Science publication: Commentary and critique on the BNPA publication: Guidance on the use of cannabis-based products for medicinal use in children and young people with epilepsy (Oct 2021)

  2. Download the BPNA’s updated guidance

  3. The Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society believes that everyone who could benefit from medical cannabis should have access to it. Our mission is to give clinicians access to evidence, training, expert guidance, peer support and licensed product information so they can prescribe life-changing medical cannabis treatments to all patients in the UK, on the NHS. The Society is an expert-led, independent, not-for-profit community, dedicated to bringing this safe, legal and effective medicine to people living with chronic conditions.

  4. For further comment, interview requests or information, please contact Kate Thorpe on 07890 172128 or email

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