Rules for medicinal cannabis to treat serious illness carry a “chill factor” for senior doctors, the Dáil has been told.
Solidarity TD Mick Barry said a mother, whose two-year-old child needs high intensity cannabis to control his intense epilepsy, will next Wednesday openly challenge customs officials to see whether they will confiscate a supply of the drug she intends to personally bring in from Spain.
Mr Barry highlighted the case of Noreen O’Neill from Cork who is due to travel to Barcelona next Monday to secure CBD. This is a cannabis-based oil which she believes will give a remedy to her two-year-old son, Michael, who has epilepsy which is resistant to ordinary drugs.
Mr Barry, who represents Cork North Central, said people are forced to travel abroad to seek healthcare, especially for their children. He said this was because doctors are refusing to apply for licences to import cannabis-linked drugs.
The TD said Michael suffers some 20 convulsions a day and 10 different anti-convulsion medicines did not work. Since his mother began treatment with cannabis-based oil he had remained free from seizures for four months.
After that the dosage was increased and the child is being given the maximum dosage level. Treatment is overseen by a clinic in Barcelona, mainly via skype.
His mother hoped to return next Wednesday with enough supply to last until the end of January. Three neurologists had refused her requests to apply for the importation licence for THC, which is rated a stronger cannabis-based medicine.
The deputy said that under current licensing rules, a consultant can apply for a licence to import cannabis-based medicines to treat in cases of multiple sclerosis, intensive nausea, for vomiting after chemotherapy, and for treatment of resistant epilepsy.
Mr Barry said “there is a chill factor for neurologists” because the cannabis-based medicine is a so-called “Schedule 1 Drug.” It is not prescribed for medical purposes and “illegal beyond a very, very low dosage and neurologists are nervous about the position.”
The TD asked if, when Ms O’Neill returned to from Barcelona next Wednesday, she would be taken aside by customs officials and if they would confiscate the medicine, and he said she would be filming her return.
“The law should not be an ass and must change so as to provide for the healthcare needs of the population and to prevent this kind of situation from happening in future,” the Solidarity TD said.
The Solidarity TD said that only 12 licences were in place to import the medicines, which he said was less than 1 per cent of the people who need it have got it.
Under the licensing system people should not have to go abroad “but your Government still forces people to go abroad for the healthcare needs of their children”.
Replying for the Government, Tánaiste Simon Coveney, said every licence which had been applied for had been granted. “We are trying to ensure that neurologists understand that these products are available,” he added.
Mr Coveney said Health Department of Health officials are working intensively to “streamline the process whereby appropriate cannabis products come into Ireland so that children can get the treatment they need when they need it”.
He believed that was different from what Mr Barrry wanted. “The only focus here of Government and the Minister is to ensure that appropriate products of the right standard are being used by patients in Ireland under the supervision of doctors,” Mr Coveney said.