Eddie Woodman has suffered countless seizures and was in a ‘vegetative state’ for most of his life. He has been pumped continuously with pharmaceutical drugs since he was a baby. But after using cannabis oil, the boy has made a remarkable recovery. Once stricken by multiple seizures, Eddie is now a playful child with sparkle back in his eyes.
The eight-year-old loves swimming, he giggles, and squeals with delight when someone pushes him on a swing, whereas he’d barely flinch before. His mother Geraldine Woodman, 43, said she has fought many social workers and battled against the doctor’s advice to ‘do what is right’ for her son. Her comments came soon after the announcement that NHS had approved two cannabis-based medicines to treat rare and severe forms of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
The latest guideline issued by NICE, the UK drug advisory board, has now permitted doctors to prescribe Epidyolex to children with severe forms of epilepsy. The drug contains cannabidiol, or popularly known as CBD, but not THC, aka tetrahydro cannabidiol- the psychoactive component of the plant.
Another drug approved by NHS is Sativex, a mouth spray that consists of both CBD and THC, that will be prescribed for muscle spasms and stiffness for patients with multiple sclerosis, but not for alleviating severe pain that comes with the condition.
Although the new guidelines have been welcomed by many charities and campaigners, some still argue that the updated guidelines are not good enough. Many families will be forced to pay thousands per year to fund treatments consisting of cannabis-based medicines like Epidyolex and Sativex.
A law was passed in November 2018, allowing specialist doctors to recommend cannabis-based medicines in the UK. However, due to the lack of research to support medicinal claims of cannabis-based medicines, doctors were reluctant to do so causing trouble to patients who were seeking such medication.
A campaign group called End Our Pain has been fighting for the legalization of medical cannabis for all. The group described the new guidelines as a massive missed opportunity. Millie Hilton, a spokeswoman said these restrictive guidelines are condemning many patients to have to pay for life-transforming medicine privately and rely on illegal and unregulated sources for accessing cannabis-based medicines.
Along with many other parents who did not welcome the move by NICE, Geraldine also expressed her concerns saying that these drugs will not treat her son who suffers from intractable epilepsy, meaning his seizures will not be controlled by this medication. She further explained that Eddie’s symptoms of epilepsy only reduce when he is given cannabidiol with THC- which has not been approved by NICE yet- and said the latest guidelines are still depriving thousands of people the access to a better quality of life.
She said that the fight isn’t just for people who suffer from epilepsy, in fact, it is for everyone who suffers from one or the other ailment and could possibly be treated by cannabis-based medicines. Eddie was born 11 weeks premature and he suffered a bleed on the brain, but he seemed to be developing normally.
A few months later, Geraldine noticed something different about her son, he was crying a lot than usual and she instantly knew something wasn’t right. The doctors dismissed it as acid reflux and recommended Gaviscon for reducing the symptoms, but after nine months Eddie suffered a “massive seizure”. He was rushed to the hospital, where medics diagnosed him with infantile spasms– a severe and aggressive form of epilepsy.
The little child was devastated, left brain-damaged with the inability to walk, talk or eat without help. He was continuously pumped with heavy medication to knock him out because as soon as he’d open his eyes, he’d have a seizure that would last for an hour, said Geraldine. By the age of 6, Eddie was consuming about 60mg drugs a day, which led him to be absolutely zonked, leaving him mostly stared into space.
Gradually, his condition worsened, some drugs affected him so adversely that he lost his peripheral vision and was only able to see light. It was then that Geraldine took the decision to look for alternative medication. She discovered CBD-THC oil and after only a few months of taking this new drug, Eddie began to identify people from a distance, and his seizures reduced dramatically. He started doing swimming, playing music, giggling and smiling on things that would make him happy, explained his mother.
Bit by bit, his pharmaceutical medication also reduced to just 1mg now, with doctor’s letters confirming that the boy has dramatically improved. Although the new medication consists of THC, it is present in a significantly small amount, enough to help him but not to get him stoned. Though this medicine is also not a permanent cure to Eddie’s condition, it is definitely a better and much safer alternative than others, said Geraldine.
For now, Geraldine won’t give up her fight to treat Eddie with the right medication he needs and said the Government should allow adults to self-medicate with cannabis and doctors to prescribe CBD oil.