Pubdate: Mon, 18 Apr 2016
Source: Marlborough Express (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2016 Independent Newspapers Limited


New Zealand's first medicinal cannabis charity is fundraising to 
provide patients with the unfunded drugs.

Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand (MCANZ) became a registered 
charity on Friday.

Co-ordinator Shane Le Brun said it had launched a fundraising 
campaign, initially to fund Sativex for 10 patients.

Sativex is the only approved cannabis-derived pharmaceutical 
available in New Zealand. The orally administered spray requires 
ministerial approval before it can be prescribed.

"Approximately 30 Kiwis now have active prescriptions for Sativex but 
MCANZ believes many more New Zealanders could benefit from this 
medication," Le Brun said.

The $1200 per month price tag was "a huge barrier", he said, with 
individual crowd-funding campaigns often needed to access Sativex.

Timaru 27-year-old Benjamin Tobin, who has suffered from epilepsy 
since he was aged 2, is among those hoping to receive funding from MCANZ.

His mother, Maria Tobin, said he was currently treated with Epilim 
and Phenobarbital, as well as several other seizure medications, 
while living in a fulltime care home.

"They affect his mood, his muscle co-ordination and he has tremors. 
All seizure medications do have their side-effects."

She said she had used her savings for the first month's supply of 
Sativex. She hoped to start treating her son next week.

"For your children you do anything," she said.

Ongoing treatment, without funding, would be expensive.

"We are hoping that not only will it help with the seizures, but also 
that his mood will be a bit more stable. We also hope his muscles 
will relax a bit, and then he will be willing to do a bit more 
physiotherapy, because it won't hurt as much any more."

Medical cannabis hit the headlines last year when Associate Health 
Minister Peter Dunne approved the use of Elixinol for Nelson teenager 
Alex Renton.

Last October, terminally ill CTU president Helen Kelly said she had 
bought cannabis oil on the black market for pain relief, and it was 
revealed last month that Martin Crowe and Paul Holmes also 
self-medicated with cannabis, both as an oil and in raw form.

MCANZ also wanted Kiwi medical professionals to be trained through 
The Medical Cannabis Institute, a United States-based course 
provider, and have it count towards their continued medical education 
credits, Le Brun said.

"Improving knowledge on medical cannabis would assist the profession 
to use current legal options for prescribing and requesting access to 
medical cannabis for their patients."

Paul Wieland, an anaesthetist, said training would be useful. He 
wanted to "make sure I am up to date with the current knowledge" 
about medical cannabis.

He said medicinal cannabis could be used for treating pain and 
post-operative nausea.

There was a burgeoning understanding among "the younger generations" 
in the medical profession, he said, but many feared discussing their 
knowledge, "mainly because of the stigma that is still surrounding cannabis".

"My colleagues know of my stance about cannabis but many feel, and me 
included, there is no good research out there because of how 
difficult it is to do proper studies," Wieland said.

"If you ever wanted to do a proper study, you have to jump through a 
lot of political hoops to do so, and that can get very expensive."

Fairfax NZ
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