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Father defends Victorian medicinal cannabis program as kids drop out

Photo: Jordon Kotarac with his daughter Juliette, whose seizures were not halted by medicinal cannabis treatment. (Supplied: Jordan Kotarac) The father of a five-year-old girl who suffers from severe seizures says he supports the Victorian Government's medicinal cannabis program, even though it did not stop his daughter's fits.

It was revealed this week that 13 out of 34 children have left the Government's subsidised medicinal cannabis program since it began in March last year.

The Opposition's health spokesperson, Mary Wooldridge, said the drop-outs are proof the policy — which the Government says costs around $35,000 per child — has not delivered good value for Victorian taxpayers.

Geelong father Jordan Kotarac disagrees.

His daughter Juliette suffers from a severe neurological condition, which requires full-time care and causes multiple seizures a day.

"When she wakes up she'll have an obvious seizure where she'll drop her head, have lip contractions … which last up to about 10 or 15 minutes in duration," Mr Kotarac said.

He said the family tried around a dozen different medications, all of which had been ineffective, before signing up to the program in April last year.

By October, Juliette had left the scheme after the drug failed to stop her seizures and resulted in negative side effects.

"She lost a bit of her appetite and it was quite hard to feed her at that stage," Mr Kotarac said.

But he does not regard the scheme as a failure.

Photo: Juliette Kotarac requires constant care and suffers daily seizures. (Supplied: Jordan Kotarac) "It may not help her, but we were just very glad to be given the opportunity to actually try something different," he said.

"There's always two sides to a debate.

"We'd been on about 10 or 12 medications, none of those medications have been effective for us, and you can still access those through the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) and taxpayers are still paying for those as well.

"The way I look at it, it's another form of medication that people should have the right to try, particularly in situations such as we've been through."

The subsidised treatment is part of a larger $28 million project by the Government to build the state's medicinal cannabis industry.

Excluded family calls for expansion

Another Geelong father, whose six-year-old daughter's life is "dictated by seizures", is calling for the scheme to be expanded.

Paramedic Rob Humphris said his daughter Cambrie had suffered life-threatening seizures from birth, some lasting up to an hour.

"They can happen any time of the day or night," he said.

"She often gets her seizures when she's dozing off to sleep. That means that pretty much she's fighting seizures to get rest.

Originally published here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-08/victorian-medicinal-cannabis-trial-kids-drop-out/9848596

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