Wednesday 21 March 2018

TD backs family's bid for medical cannabis

Vera Barry with her daughter Ava Photo: Provision
Vera Barry with her daughter Ava Photo: Provision
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The chairman of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Dr Michael Harty, has backed a family's campaign for medicinal cannabis to be licensed in Ireland.

Ava Barry (6) suffers from Devant Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that has seen her suffer terrifying seizures several times a day.

However, her mother Vera Twomey said these attacks have drastically reduced since she began taking a form of medicinal cannabis, Cannabidiol (CBD), and it has been "life-altering". She said that while CBD can be bought here legally she wanted it licensed for prescription by doctors.

Dr Harty has met Ava's parents and has arranged for the matter to be discussed by TDs and senators on his committee next month. They are to produce a report for Health Minister Simon Harris to consider.

Dr Harty told the Sunday Independent that while he didn't think CBD should be the first treatment to ease the symptoms of neurological conditions, it should be an option for specialists to offer when all else failed. He said it was licensed in Colorado and the Netherlands and did not have the psychotropic effects associated with cannabis. He said it had potential beneficial effects to relieve the symptoms of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.

It was "unfortunate" that it was known as medicinal cannabis, the Clare TD said. "It's not that we want to legalise cannabis in any way," he added, saying that CBD wasn't smoked and "it's not going to give you a high". It comes in the form of an oil that is taken orally in droplet dosages.

He said: "We would be seeking a licence for it to be made available through specialists who would vouch that they had tried all known treatments and they weren't getting satisfactory results."

Eleven forms of treatment were tried with Ava, from Co Cork, and none were successful. Her mother said that CBD was the "last resort". Ms Twomey learnt it could be legally purchased here only in September. The family were able to buy the product - called Charlotte's Web - from a hemp shop in Dublin.

Ms Twomey said Ava had previously suffered up to 23 seizures in a 36-hour period, but since taking two CBD doses a day had had only six attacks in October.

"The colour in her face is better... she's more aware, she's smiling at us more," Ms Towmey said.

She said CBD should be licensed for use here so that doctors could prescribe it.

A spokeswoman for minister Harris, said he wanted policy on medicinal cannabis to be reviewed "with the best medical advice and expertise".

The spokeswoman said the minister had met Ms Twomey and other patients and was "very sympathetic to the awful situation they are in".

Sunday Independent

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