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‘You can’t cherry pick a few people’

Thursday, 16th February, 2017 1:01am

Legal medical cannabis could become a reality in Ireland after a government report this week said the substance could be made available. However, this is only in certain circumstances.

It should only be available for specific medical conditions that have not responded to other treatments, the report said, including muscle spasticity due to multiple sclerosis, nausea from chemotherapy and treatment-resistant epilepsy.

Vera Twomey, a Cork mother who has been fighting for the legalisation of medical cannabis for her ill daughter, has welcomed the news but criticised the “narrowness” of the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) report.

“I’m grateful for my child’s sake but I don’t feel like it’s appropriate to be so celebratory,” said Vera from Aghabullogue, whose six year old daughter Ava suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a drug-resistant form of epilepsy that causes severe seizures.

“There were so many others hoping to be included,” she added, explaining that sufferers of conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, chronic pain and glaucoma has also been hoping for access to medical cannabis.

“This should not be for the few but for the many – you can’t cherry pick a few people and offer them something life-altering,” she said.

Following a proposed bill on medical cannabis in the Dáil, the Oireachtas Health Committee recommended last month that it be funded by the state and be available as soon as possible, pending the HPRA’s recommendations.

However the HPRA limited the conditions for which cannabis should be available because of concerns about its safety and effectiveness.

“There are limited robust scientific data demonstrating the effectiveness of cannabis products. The safety of cannabis as a medical treatment is also not well characterised,” said the report.

Vera has been giving Ava a legal plant-based cannabinoid oil (CBD) for the past number of months. She said she doesn’t believe safety is an issue and said that Ava has reacted badly to conventional medicine in the past.

“Let them put it (medical cannabis) beside pharmaceutical medication and compare it,” she said.

“She had a heart attack because of that medication; she was in a coma because of medication; she’s on Vitamin D supplements because it affected her bone development from a young age; it delayed her speech.

“I could make a long list of the side effects (of the pharmaceutical medication). If there were a negative side effect of the CBD I’d tell you, but there’s not.”

Vera has urged anyone who wants to see medical cannabis legalised to speak out.

“Contact your own TDs – phone them, mail them, visit them and get them to bring your stories to the Dáil,” she said.

“If we don’t make our voices heard, we could be ignored and we could miss our opportunity,” Vera concluded.

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