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Children with Epilepsy: Treatments

Volume 709: debated on Tuesday 1 March 2022

11. If his Department will make an assessment of the long-term impacts of use of (a) benzodiazepines and (b) other opioids on children being treated for acute forms of epilepsy. (905783)

Benzodiazepines are an important medicine in the treatment of severe cases of certain types of epileptic conditions in children. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency continues to monitor the safety of treatment with benzodiazepines. Opioids are not authorised to treat children for acute forms of epilepsy.

Benzodiazepines are not appropriate for all children, and the Secretary of State has been instrumental in approving medicinal cannabis for use by children with epilepsy. I recently visited a medicinal cannabis farm in the borders of Scotland, which is poised to make an important contribution to the pharmaceutical industry in this country. Given the economic benefits, and the moral imperative of helping those children who can only benefit from medicinal cannabis, will the Minister say what steps the Government will take to make it available on NHS prescriptions?

The National Institute for Health Research welcomes funding applications for research into any aspect of human health, including epilepsy, and we would welcome those pharmaceutical companies coming forward to partake in trials. The NIHR and the NHS will support a programme of two randomised control trials into epilepsy, which will compare medicines containing cannabidiol, and CBD plus tetrahydrocannabinol and a placebo. This is a pioneering area of research, and I am aware that NHS England and NIHR are working closely to get those trials started as soon as possible.