A Northern Tasmanian mother says she has been left with no choice but to continue illegally growing cannabis, following her son’s rejection from the government’s Controlled Access Scheme.
Lyn Cleaver held high hopes for the scheme introduced on September 1, which gives medical specialists the ability to prescribe medical cannabis products for patients where conventional treatments have failed.
Ms Cleaver’s 26-year-old son Jeremy Bester was diagnosed with refractory epilepsy as a child and has been living with severe seizures ever since.
After exhausting countless pharmaceutical options, the Mount Direction family began harvesting their own cannabis crops to treat Jeremy’s seizures.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Michael Ferguson announced the Controlled Access Scheme was working, with two patients now available to access medical cannabis products under prescription.
Mr Ferguson said three referrals had been assessed by the Tasmanian Medicines Access and Advisory Committee, with the third application requiring further clinical information before a final decision could be made.
But Ms Cleaver said Jeremy’s application had already been rejected – news confirmed by his neurologist Associate Professor Wendyl D'Souza on Monday.
“They want him to try another drug Zonegran and said that he won’t be eligible for the scheme until then,” she said.
Ms Cleaver said the family wouldn’t risk treating Jeremy’s epilepsy with Zonegran because the side effects, including a loss of appetite, were too severe.
“We wouldn’t have ended up at cannabis if the conventional drugs were safe and effective for Jeremy,” she said.
“There is no way we would risk his health by putting him on Zonegran.
“Jeremy only weighs 50 kilograms at the moment, so he really can’t afford to not eat. He has tried enough drugs and proved that they don’t work.”
Ms Cleaver said she hopes the government will “see sense” and has called for clearer guidelines for applicants accessing the scheme.