The first medicinal cannabis product will land on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme tomorrow, to help young children who suffer from a rare and debilitating form of epilepsy.
Dravet syndrome is a condition that begins in the first year of a child’s life, which inflicts lengthy and frequent seizures.
Sufferers can also face intellectual disabilities, orthopaedic conditions, chronic infections, and disruption of the autonomic nervous system – the network that controls body temperature and heart rate.
A new medication derived from cannabis will help treat children suffering from a rare epileptic condition. (9News)
The condition is drug-resistant and treatment options are limited, but cannabidiol has shown to have success in decreasing the seizures.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced today that the cannabidiol product would “help save and protect lives”.
About 116 children a year are affected by the illness, and the listing on the PBS will bring down the price of the medicine from $24,000 a year to the price of a script.
“So what is effectively access to a medicine otherwise not available that will help give these children a shot at normality, a shot at a longer life and a better life, and that is really powerful,” Mr Hunt said.
The medicine does not include THC, the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant that delivers the high – only cannabidiol, which has already shown success in treating epilepsy.
Higgins MP Dr Katie Allen said as the mother of a child with epilepsy, she welcomed the announcement.
Dr Allen called it an “astounding” moment.
“As a paediatric trainee, and a registrar, a young doctor, we used to see patients who had these devastating conditions in the first year of life, young girls and boys in their infancy who had seizures, seizures that were activated by fevers that could last for long periods of time,” she said.
“Distressing for families, distressing for these poor little babies, but not stopping and keeping on coming.”
Dr Allen said children with the condition would now have the opportunity to develop more normally – and without a hefty bill for the families.
“I am delighted for us as a country to be in position to be able to pay for this, to be able to give this opportunity for children affected by Dravet syndrome to have a more normal life,” she said.