Lyn Cleaver holds a bottle of cannabis oil used to treat her son Jeremy Bester’s seizures. They have been denied access to medicinal cannabis under Tasmania's new Controlled Access Scheme. Picture: CHRIS KIDD
THE mother of a patient denied a medicinal cannabis prescription in the State’s historic first batch of approvals says she has no option but to continue to break the law.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson announced this week that two of the three Tasmanian patients who had applied through their specialist to access medicinal cannabis products under the State’s new Controlled Access Scheme could now do so.
MORE: CANNABIS PRESCRIBED TO TWO TASSIE PATIENTS
Mr Ferguson said in the case of the third patient, more clinical information was needed.
The mother of that patient, epilepsy sufferer Jeremy Bester, said her son’s neurologist had applied for a prescription as soon as the legislation was introduced in September.
But Mrs Cleaver said the expert panel had decided her 26-year-old son needed to try other pharmaceutical anticonvulsant before the application for medicinal cannabis could be reassessed.
Lyn Cleaver said her son was allergic to one of those drugs.
The other has listed common side effects including loss of co-ordination, agitation, trouble walking and loss of appetite, she said.
Jeremy weighs just 50kg and Mrs Cleaver said she was not prepared to put him through more hardship to appease regulators.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson. Picture: MATHEW FARRELL
“I am really pleased for the two patients who will get relief under the new laws,” she said.
“But for our family, the process has proved a mess. We have been told Jeremy needs to go on another drug despite the fact we have already found one that works.
“If other anticonvulsants were effective we would not put our family at risk of criminal charges by continuing to grow and administer medicinal cannabis products.”
MORE: WAIT FOR TASMANIANS WANTING CANNABIS TREATMENT
Jeremy has had epilepsy since he was a young child. Multiple medicines have been prescribed but never Zonegran — which the Tasmanian authorities have ruled he must now try.
Mrs Cleaver has been treating Jeremy’s condition with medicinal cannabis since 2014.
While she had hoped Tasmania’s new laws would streamline Jeremy’s treatment, Mrs Cleaver said she had not had much faith in the new system and took steps to ensure the family had the cannabis products needed.
“We put our plants in the ground last month because we had no answers at that time. We still don’t. It seems we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
Mr Ferguson said a lot of work has gone into ensuring Tasmanian patients were able to access unregistered cannabinoid products safely — after other treatment options have been tried unsuccessfully and with the support of specialist medical practitioners.
“It is important that a rigorous process is in place to examine applications to the Controlled Access Scheme, and anybody who thinks they may benefit from these products should discuss their situation with their GP,” Mr Ferguson said.
“The CAS is supported by the Tasmanian branch of the Royal Australian College of GPs, Epilepsy Tasmania and the AMA.”
MORE: MEDICINAL CANNABIS PRESCRIPTIONS DUE TO START
Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings said the rejection of the Cleaver’s application showed red tape continued to hinder patient progress.
Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings. Picture: MATHEW FARRELL
“The fact Jeremy has been treated over the past three years more successfully with medicinal cannabis than any other drug he has been previously been prescribed doesn’t seem to matter to this government,” Ms Giddings said.
“You have to question whether a scheme like this has been made ungainly on purpose when it requires a referral from a GP to a specialist and then mountains of paperwork, which also makes it, by design, restrictive.”
She said a Labor Government would decriminalise the use and possession of cannabis for medicinal purposes including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and cancer as well as the treatment of chronic pain.
Labor senators Anne Urquhart and Carol Brown have called on Premier Will Hodgman to direct Mr Ferguson to urgently intervene in the panel’s decision to not grant Jeremy a prescription.
“Mr Ferguson’s public comments that Jeremy needs one more referral to allow access begs the question — why did the Tasmanian Government not facilitate this final referral over the past two months?” the senators said.
“For two decades, Jeremy has been prescribed all suitable medicines. All have failed. Medicinal cannabis oil is the only drug to provide Jeremy any relief from epileptic seizures.
Clearly, Jeremy’s case reflects both poor design and poor implementation of the Tasmanian Government’s Controlled Access Scheme.”
Originally published: http://www.themercury.com.au/lifestyle/mum-frustrated-at-prescription-denial-and-says-family-has-no-option-but-to-keep-breaking-the-law/news-story/d065318ff2bb7e49afb8871630dfcf35