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Medicinal cannabis expands for kids in Vic

Victoria's scheme subsidising medical cannabis for children with severe epilepsy is being expanded. Credit: AAP

A Victorian teenager who spent the past seven years battling up to 50 epileptic seizures a day hasn't had any episodes since taking medical cannabis.

Madison Williamson, 15, has been taking medical cannabis as part of her treatment for epilepsy for the past 10 months and hasn't had a seizure since, her mum says.

"Over the years the seizures changed. She ended up having cluster seizure where they could be up to 50 a day," Amanda told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.

"Within two months, I realised that there were no boxes ticked for seizures. There's been nothing since to this day. Everything has changed."

Madison has become the poster girl for the state government's decision to expand its scheme for children with intractable epilepsy to use medical cannabis from 60 to 90.

"We are going to expand the program to 90 children so that more children have the same opportunities to fully participate in society, to see a reduction in their seizures," Health Minister Jenny Mikakos announced, adding it would cost $3.7 million annually.

Ten children will be immediately added to the scheme, with the extra 20 young people to start on the scheme next year.

Canadian pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol is used in the scheme.

Royal Children's Hospital paediatric neurologist Jeremy Freeman said many patients, aged from infants to 18, benefited from using the product with their other medication.

"For the patients that have a good response, the change is pretty dramatic and fairly quick. Within the first couple of months we see a major reduction in seizures," he said.

"About half the patients we've treated have had significant reduction in their seizures and two-thirds of those are major reduction (less than half the normal amount of seizures), about a third of those have had about a minor reduction."

The hospital has about 30 children on its waitlist for the scheme, which has also been rolled out at Monash Health and the Austin Hospital.

The state government has manufactured 12kg of purified crystallised cannabidiol for research and clinical trials.

Ms Mikakos wants the federal government to add the medication it to the PBS.

The federal government last month announced $3 million for clinical trials looking at how cannabis can be used to help treat cancer pain and other side effects.

Ms Williamson, who says she had nothing to lose to give her daughter a better quality of life, wants the government to listen and help more children.

"More doors are opening for her. I wish that for everybody," she said.

Victoria was the first state in Australia to legalise access to medicinal cannabis for patients in exceptional circumstances in 2016. Originally published here:

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