CANNABIS will be imported or grown by the NSW Government and provided to children suffering severe epilepsy, in a groundbreaking trial.
Almost $9 million dollars will be invested in at least three clinical trials to examine how cannabis could provide relief for a range of patients from the terminally ill to cancer patients suffering chemotherapy-induced nausea.
NSW Premier Mike Baird exclusively told The Sunday Telegraph his government would also establish a Medical Cannabis Expert Panel led by NSW Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant.
“If we have evidence that medical cannabis has the potential to change lives, then we need to do something about it,” Mr Baird said.
The government will work with the University of Sydney to establish a Centre for Cannabinoid Research, and if medical grade cannabis could not be sourced from existing overseas suppliers, the Premier confirmed the government was prepared to spearhead a homegrown industry.
“Once we have the clinical evidence that medical cannabis can reduce suffering then the government will consider a range of supply measures, including importation. But if that does not prove successful then the government will assume responsibility for supply itself,’’ Premier Baird said.
In conjunction with doctors from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, child neurology specialist, Dr John Lawson from Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick will be involved in the trial on children with epilepsy.
“I think there is some evidence this might work, but the likelihood is that only a small group of children will benefit,” Dr Lawson said.
Dr Lawson said there was a subset of epileptic children who do not respond to current treatments and they will be selected for the trial.
“The entry criteria will be those who have failed standard treatments who continue to seize on a daily basis and mostly focused on the younger children.
“The ones that have benefited most on cannabis are children who are having seizures night and day and the children’s development is severely affected as a result,” he said of the available anecdotal and international evidence.
The Stevens family from Coffs Harbour put their eight-year-old daughter on cannabis oil in April this year as a last resort.
Doctors told David Stevens that Deisha would probably die from her rare form of epilepsy which caused seizures every five to eight seconds around the clock. Multiple anti-convulsive drugs did not stop the seizures, so the family sourced cannabis oil in desperation.
Nine months later and Deisha can now talk, read and write and is seizure free.
“She has three millilitres three times a day and it’s been phenomenal in our lives, she is excelling as the brain heals, so this will be fantastic for a lot of families,” Mr Stevens said.
The trail of medicinal cannabis came about after The Sunday Telegraph broke the story of Dan Haslam.
The 24-year-old terminal cancer sufferer has been forced to break the law to obtain cannabis which is effective in treating the debilitating nausea that accompanies his fortnightly chemo treatments.
The son of an ex-drug squad detective has garnered support from the Tamworth community, including the police, and readers of The Sunday Telegraph also got behind the cause.
“We’ve achieved a lot, I’m happy the trials are going ahead and we’re very fortunate we have a Premier who has had the courage to act,” Dan’s mother Lucy Haslam said.