Pubdate: Fri, 20 May 2016
Source: Dominion Post, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2016 The Dominion Post
Author: Jo Moir
Page: A2


Terminally ill Helen Kelly says the Government has made her a criminal
after a review of medicinal cannabis guidelines has resulted in little

More than a year ago the former Council of Trade Unions president was
diagnosed with lung cancer and after trying a variety of different
medications she resorted to cannabis for pain relief.

Kelly is illegally sourcing her own drugs after her bid for medicinal
cannabis was withdrawn - the result of a ''complicated'' application
process that required information that was ''impossible to access''.

''I've been left to buy my own cancer treatment and take illegal
cannabis - the whole system is stuffed.''

The guidelines for that application process have been reviewed and
yesterday Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne announced only
minor changes, based on the advice of medical experts.

Kelly said Dunne's decisions around access to cannabis were having an
impact on her life every day. ''I'm really sick at the moment . . . I
can't find a product to take that I feel comfortable operating on
during the day.''

The guidelines were introduced last year after teenager Alex Renton
successfully applied for a cannabis product, Elixinol.

At present the only cannabis-based product available in New Zealand
that does not require ministerial approval is Sativex.

Feedback from the review was ''unanimously supportive that the
guidelines and process are sound'', Dunne said.

''It is my hope that by releasing this feedback it will go some way to
balancing out the irresponsible and ill-informed messages being passed
off as fact, and provide a degree of reassurance to those who are
genuinely looking for respite to significant health issues,'' he said.

But Kelly said the ministry should be compiling a list of
cannabis-based products for doctors to prescribe, other than Sativex,
which was not right for her needs.

Last month Dunne approved Aceso Calm Spray, a non-pharmaceutical grade
cannabis-based product, for a patient with severe Tourette's Syndrome.

He instructed ministry officials, in March, to consult a range of
medical specialists and the Medical Association, to work out whether
the guidelines were still ''fit for purpose''.

''The consistent feedback from experts in their field was that
cannabis-based products should be treated no differently to other
medicines - evidence-based principles should and will continue to be

The specialists recommended one of the guidelines - that a patient be
admitted to hospital while being treated with a non-pharmaceutical
grade cannabis product - be removed, which Dunne has adopted.

The ministry has also made changes to the terminology used around
cannabis. Instead of ''medicinal cannabis'', the description has been
changed to ''cannabis-based products''.

''The changes do not impact on the legal status of cannabis or any
cannabis-based products. They have been made to provide more clarity
and consistency in describing cannabis-based products''
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MAP posted-by: Matt