The Queensland and Victorian state governments have joined forces with New South Wales to take part in medicinal cannabis clinical trials.
The NSW Government introduced the scientific trials last year to help treat patients with drug-resistant and uncontrollable epilepsy.
The new agreement means Victorians and Queenslanders suffering terminal or life-threatening conditions can take part in the NSW clinical trials.
The three trials will be conducted by the NSW Government and will examine the use of cannabis in providing relief for patients.
Victoria’s Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the first trial would be open to children with severe, drug resistant epilepsy, due to start mid next year.
“There’s a series of experts that oversee the eligibility for who gets to partake and we’ll be doing all we can to support Victorian families and Victorian kids who meet that eligibility criteria to participate in the trial,” she said.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the focus of the trial would be for families whose children suffer from life-threatening seizures.
“Sometimes they’re happening on a weekly and a daily basis, being rushed to hospital and this medical cannabis oil, there’s scientific research which says that it can alleviate the pain that these young children are going through,” she said.
Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick says the clinical trials will set a framework to explore the possibility of regulated medical cannabis in the state, but the trials are dependant on the advice of medical researchers.
“I’m hopeful the work can be completed this year. If they advise us they want to take a longer approach, particularly with complex illnesses like epilepsy – there are neurological aspects of that – we’ll have paediatric neurologists, senior adult neurologists involved in that,” he said.
“You have to look at the different types of treatments and the different types of illnesses which are all unique.
“We don’t want to cut off one path for treatment of people just to get an outcome in one particular area.”
The Australian Medical Association Queensland (AMAQ) said it supported scientific trials into the use of medicinal cannabis.
AMAQ president Dr Shaun Rudd said the trials would determine if it was safe.
“We think it’s a great idea – we’ve always wanted to get further evidence to see if this is something that we can use, medically or not,” he said.
“Hopefully with the trials we’ll find out what components of the cannabis itself is the useful ones for medical treatment.”
Medicinal cannabis advocate Debra Camacho has thanked Ms Palaszczuk ahead of the announcement.
Ms Camacho said her 10-year-old daughter suffered from Dravet Syndrome, a life-threatening illness that causes severe seizures.
She said cannabis oil treated her daughter’s illness better than conventional medicine but she had to stop using it because it was illegal.
“We had actually tried the cannabis but unfortunately were unable to continue the treatment so she has regressed again,” she said.
“We’re just fighting now to get it legalised – we want it legal so we don’t have any other repercussions.
“There’s problems associated with it now for giving it to children.”
She said it was exciting from a political standpoint and that the Queensland Government was recognising that.
“They’re caring enough to put money in to be able to research to hopefully find not a cure, but to ease a lot of people’s lives,” she said.