Pubdate: Wed, 15 Oct 2014
Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2014sThe Australian
Author: Gina Rushton
Page: 8


CLINICAL trials of medicinal cannabis should be expanded to include a 
range of illnesses, not just terminal ones, and should be 
fast-tracked to allow widespread use of the therapy, advocates say.

Medical professionals, state politicians and the families of those 
with chronic conditions have called for an expansion of clinical 
trials and immediate action on the issue, after the announcement that 
health ministers supported the trials.

Tony Abbott yesterday said he was "happy to support" trials to be 
established by NSW Premier Mark Baird. Victoria is also about to 
explore trials.

"Let's see what we can do with medical marijuana," the Prime Minister said.

Medical researcher and former GP Andrew Katelaris said government 
action should include patients with conditions such as epilepsy, not 
just those with terminal illnesses.

"We need immediate compassionate action for kids with severe 
epilepsy; this is an immediately life-threatening condition which 
constantly reduces brain function because of the seizures," he told 
The Australian.

Dr Katelaris said his pilot study using cannabis for the treatment of 
intractable epilepsy had brought an average 80 per cent reduction in seizures.

Melbourne couple Cassie Batten and Rhett Wallace say medicinal 
cannabis has saved the life of their three-year-old son Cooper. "If 
(cannabis) was legalised for epilepsy, we would not have to break the 
law to keep him alive," Ms Batten said.

The couple - who do not support recreational marijuana use - were 
told Cooper would die by the age of two when bacterial meningitis 
left him with cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

"We knew another kid with epilepsy who was having great success with 
medical cannabis," Ms Batten said. "We thought: what have we got to lose?"

Cooper gained 3kg, his seizures reduced in frequency and he is now stable.

"We are just lucky we have enough cannabis to keep him seizure-free 
but that hinges on a crop we have growing in someone's basement," Mr 
Katelaris said.

Greens senator and doctor Richard Di Natale called for trials to be 
fast-tracked and to be taken "out of the hands of politicians" and 
given to professionals.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom