The discussion about the use of medicinal cannabis to treat childhood illnesses has been headline news in Bundaberg for years – and now families whose children have rare forms of epilepsy have more treatment options.
The Bundaberg region has also been a leader in the breeding and production of medicinal cannabis.
Cannabidiol – a type of medicinal cannabis – has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for the treatment of some rare forms of childhood epilepsy.
The approval is for prescribing cannabidiol as an add-on treatment to other anti-epilepsy drugs for two rare forms of epilepsy – Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome – and is passed as Parliament passed a law that allows faster access to cannabis medicinal products.
Studies have shown that cannabidiol, when added to standard treatment, reduced the number of seizures children affected by the rare forms of epilepsy had each month.
Dr. Jill Thistlethwaite, medical advisor and general practitioner at NPS MedicineWise, says cannabidiol and THC (Delta 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol) are the two most common chemicals used in cannabis medicines.
“Unlike THC, cannabidiol does not cause high levels and has fewer side effects than THC,” said Dr. Thistlethwaite.
“However, because of the way this medicine works in the body, it may interact with other medicines.
“My advice for medical cannabis is the same as for any drug.
“When your healthcare professional prescribes a new medicine for you or your child, they will know what medicines are already being used, including over-the-counter and supplementary medicines.”
Dr. Thistlewaite said doctors still had to apply to prescribe treatment.
“Medical cannabis is not seen as the first option for treating any disease, although there is evidence that it can help conditions other than epilepsy, including cancer pain, nerve pain, and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting,” she said.
“In most situations, your doctor will need to get authorization to prescribe them because of many considerations.”
On the spot, there was a focus on the benefits of medical cannabis for children when the late MP Paul Neville spoke out in parliament in 2015 in favor of legalizing treatment across the board.
Mr Neville spoke to NewsMail about how his granddaughter, who had a rare condition that caused benign tumors, went from multiple seizures in a day to just one in eight weeks after taking medical cannabis oil.
Medical cannabis has since been available under tight controls for a range of diseases.