Compassionate Access Scheme gives Hunter kids with severe epilepsy access to medicinal cannabis.

HUNTER children have begun receiving doses of medicinal cannabis to treat severe epilepsy.

About 12 local children with treatment-resistant epilepsy will be given access to pharmaceutical-grade, cannabis-derived medicine as part of the trial at John Hunter Children’s Hospital.

Dr John Lawson, of Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick, is leading the trial through the NSW Government’s Compassionate Access Scheme for Epidiolex®.

Dr Lawson said the Hunter participants would be part of a wider trial involving up to 40 children.

The research would be an "important first step” in exploring the clinical use of cannabis-derived medicine.

“The scheme will see some of the sickest children in NSW – who have not responded to available epilepsy drugs and treatments – gain access to a regulated pharmaceutical supply of the promising medicine, cannabidiol, at an earlier date than was expected, and before it is accessible in many other countries,” Dr Lawson said.

“These children suffer from such severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy – some with hundreds of seizures a day – that they are too sick to take part in clinical trials.

“This scheme fills that gap in the hope of providing some relief to them and their families.”

Dr Lawson said NSW was “leading the way” in exploring the use of safe and effective cannabis-based treatment options for children suffering from severe epilepsy.

“This work includes world-first research and clinical trials in this area,” he said. 

The treatment was reserved for children who had exhausted conventional treatment options.

The Compassionate Access Scheme is part of the NSW Government’s $21 million commitment to explore the therapeutic use of medicinal cannabis.

Dr Lawson said Epidiolex® was a pharmaceutical formulation of pure cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, developed by GW Pharmaceuticals. It has not been considered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for routine use as it is an experimental medication. 

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