Billy Caldwell’s mum: ‘This syringe saved my son’s life, I’ll fight for others’

Billy Caldwell’s mum tonight vowed to fight for a law change ­after her son was finally given “life-saving” cannabis oil to treat his severe epilepsy.

Charlotte Caldwell, 50, said her 12-year-old had been through “six days of torture” since customs officials seized his six-month supply of the drug on Monday.

But she said the “impossible” had been achieved after Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced he would grant a licence for the youngster to get the treatment.

Officials worked overnight to draft ­emergency legislation so Billy could be treated with the cannabis oil after he ­suffered “back to back” seizures on Friday.

Billy will now have access to four months’ worth of the medicine but, for now, only a specialist can give him the drops.

Charlotte, who was tonight pictured with Billy and a syringe containing the medication, said his condition had improved since the first dose.


She called the U-turn a “wake-up call” for the Government, which she hopes will act to ensure no other family ­experiences a similar “horrendous” ordeal.

Speaking at London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where Billy is being treated, she told the Sunday People: “While I am relieved the right thing is finally being done for Billy today, I’m devastated my son has had to nearly die to get drops of a natural medication returned to him.

“Putting him through six days of torture has been cruel to the extreme.”

The cannabis oil, which contains a ­substance called THC, is illegal in the UK but available in 13 other European countries.

Charlotte, of Castlederg, Co Tyrone, will now continue fighting for ­medicinal ­cannabis to be prescribed to other poorly children in the UK.

Speaking moments after the medication was returned, she said: “History has been made today. One little boy has achieved the impossible. Billy’s medication has been released by the Home Office and is on its way. Today was about Billy.

“But from tomorrow it’s about thousands of other children and families.

“My experience throughout this leaves me in no doubt the Home Office can no longer play a role, in fact play any role, in the administration of medication for sick children in our country.”


Billy started cannabis oil treatment in the US in 2016. Charlotte credited the drops – under the brand name Tilray – with ­keeping him seizure-free for 300 days.

Last year, he became the first UK patient to get an NHS prescription for the ­medication. But in May Charlotte was told he could no longer have it.

Charlotte resorted to collecting the prescription from Canada, where it is legal.

But Tory Home Office minister Nick Hurd ordered a six-month supply to be confiscated from her on Monday as she and Billy arrived at Heathrow Airport.

The decision caused a public outcry as Billy was taken to hospital hours after the meds were seized and has since been gripped with “life-threatening” seizures.

He has now been allowed a prescription of six 20ml bottles – which is about four months’ worth.

For now Charlotte is unable to treat her son by law so the job has fallen to a consultant in the hospital. Holding the drops tonight, the relieved mum said: “At this stage I do not care who gives Billy the drops as long as he gets them.

“He had his first dose at 2.30pm with this very ­syringe and he quickly began to settle and I feel that will continue.

“The contents of this little piece of plastic saved his life… something so tiny.

“It’s incredible. Now we are working on a plan to ensure I will be able to administer these drops in time but right now I’m not legally able to and I’m OK with that.

“I would say by Sunday we will see even more change for the better in Billy and I’m hoping he will have a decent night’s sleep. I’m just praying that he has no more seizures but that’s not a given.

“But we will get there… for Billy and I hope for all the other children who need this medication.

“People keep telling me I’ve done an amazing thing. But it’s Billy who had been amazing. He held on, he fought in and he clung on, literally clung in to life while the world raged around him.

“He trusted that I would fix this and with a huge amount of help, it has been fixed.

“Now we need time and a bit of peace to settle down and heal. The battle is won. But tomorrow the next battle starts again to help every other child.”

She paid tribute to NHS staff, MP Dan Poulter and Steve Moore, ­director of Volteface – which ­explores alternatives to public drug policies – for their ­support, describing their work as “truly amazing”.

Charlotte added that she has been ­inundated with messages of support from the public from around the world.

Tonight the Government came under growing pressure from politicians and health experts to rethink the law. Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: “The overriding priority of any government should be ­preserving the life and well-being of our citizens.

“This is all that Billy Caldwell’s mum wants for her son. The Government’s current approach to medical drugs is simply not doing that.”

Former Government drugs adviser David Nutt said Mr Javid had made a “landmark decision” as it “concedes the medicinal value of cannabis oil”.

He added: “It has further implications as Billy won’t want to spend his life in hospital to be treated. The Government will therefore need a new strategy, which I would suggest should be to move control of drugs from the Home Office whose only policy response is prohibition, to the Department of Health who at least have the competence to evaluate medical claims. There will be many other people in the UK with severe epilepsy who are likely to benefit from medical ­cannabis and provision must be made to stop them suffering brain damage and death from cannabis-treatable seizures.”

Dr Frank D’Ambrosio, a leading US medical cannabis practitioner, questioned why the Home Secretary waited until Billy was in hospital ­before allowing him the medicine.

He said: “There are a dozen other patients in Britain who need this ­treatment immediately. We need ‘Billy’s Law’ to pave the way for everyone in desperate need of life-saving cannabis medication to receive it.”

Mr Javid said he used “an exceptional power” to “urgently issue” a licence to treat Billy with cannabis oil.

He added: “This is a very complex situation, but our immediate priority is making sure Billy receives the most effective treatment possible in a safe way. My decision is based on the a­dvice of senior clinicians who made clear this is a medical emergency.”

Here’s what Brits can and can’t buy

Our laws on cannabis oil are complex, but here is where you currently stand:

■CBD oil can be bought legally in the UK and is available from high street retailer Holland and Barrett for £19.99 a bottle.

■Use of other types of cannabis oil containing THC – the component in cannabis that makes users feel “high” – is still banned. This is despite evidence from experts that the concentration is so low that consuming an entire bottle of about 100 doses would not create any psychedelic effect.

■The only cannabis-based drug containing THC that is licensed in the UK is called Sativex and is used to treat multiple sclerosis.

■Medical-grade marijuana, such as Billy’s cannabis oil, is legal in more than 20 countries, including Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Israel, Switzerland, Norway and Australia. It is also legal in the majority of American states.

■Government ministers here insist the drug has “no medical value”, but still allow British firms to produce medical marijuana under a special licence for a foreign market

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