From March this year, a cannabis based medicine will be made accessible to some children suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy and medical marijuana will also be available to terminally ill adults.
ABC News reports Epidiolex will be offered in the compassionate access scheme for children.
Epidiolex is based on cannabidiol (CBD), which is one of at least 85 active cannabinoids identified in marijuana. Cannabidiol has been used successfully as an anticonvulsant in animals and human trials began last year.
CBD is non-intoxicating and has been shown to not interfere with several psychomotor functions. It is thought to be well-tolerated and safe. While CBD doesn’t provide a high; as it is extracted from cannabis, it remains generally illegal in many parts of the world.
Epidiolex is still in a trial phase, but according to NSW Minister for Medical Research Prue Goward, if and when the drug is approved in Australia it would be available here within three years.
Children receiving Epidiolex will be monitored by Sydney Children’s Hospital network at Randwick and Westmead in Sydney.
The Daily Telegraph states terminally ill adults will also have access to cannabis medicine from March; in the form of inhaling vaporised leaf cannabis. Vaporising is very different to smoking as there is no combustion involved. The cannabis material is heated by specialised electronic equipment, but only to a temperature point where the cannabinoids are released.
The adult scheme will be coordinated and monitored by Calvary Mater Hospital in Newcastle.
A poll being run alongside the Telegraph article indicates (at the time of writing), 93.12% support cannabis being available on prescription.
Further information on the New South Wales Government’s Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme (TICS) can be viewed here.
In October last year, New South Wales’ Government also inked an agreement with the UK’s GW Pharmaceuticals (makers of Epidiolex) for a medicinal cannabis research program, part of a $21 million funding package to support medical marijuana reforms in NSW.
2016 will generally be an interesting year for medical cannabis in Australia. Legislation to amend Australia’s Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 was introduced to Parliament in the first sitting period, part of a plan for the local cultivation of medical cannabis to be permitted and carried out under national, uniform guidelines.