24 August 2016

Some of the state’s sickest children have begun receiving doses of pharmaceutical-grade, cannabis-derived medicine to treat severe, drug-resistant epilepsy under the NSW Government’s Compassionate Access Scheme for Epidiolex®.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said about 40 children with severe epilepsy will participate in the Compassionate Access Scheme for Epidiolex®.

“Over the past few weeks, about half of those children have started receiving doses of the experimental cannabis-based treatment at Sydney and Westmead Children’s hospitals and other families are currently being notified and assessed for participation,” said Dr Chant.

The Scheme, which is part of the NSW Government’s $21 million commitment to explore the therapeutic use of medicinal cannabis, occurred as a result of a memorandum of understanding with GW Pharmaceuticals.

“This is an important first step in exploring the clinical use of cannabis-derived medicine for the treatment of severe childhood epilepsy,” said Dr Chant.

“The Scheme will see some of the sickest children in NSW - who have not responded to available epilepsy drugs – gain access to a regulated pharmaceutical supply of the promising medicine, cannabidiol, at an earlier date than was expected, and before it is accessible in many other countries.

“These children suffer from such severe, drug-resistant epilepsy – some with hundreds of seizures a day – that they are too sick to take part in clinical trials. This Scheme fills that gap in the hope of providing some relief to them and their families.

“NSW is leading the way in exploring the use of safe and effective cannabis-based treatment options for children suffering from severe, drug-resistant epilepsy. This work includes world-first research and clinical trials in this area,” Dr Chant said.

Epidiolex® is an oral pharmaceutical formulation of pure cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive component of the cannabis plant, developed by GW Pharmaceuticals. It is currently being investigated for its effect in drug-resistant epilepsy in children.

Epidiolex® supplied by GW Pharmaceuticals under the Compassionate Access Scheme is reserved for those children who have exhausted conventional treatment options and whose paediatric neurologist considers that they meet agreed criteria. Currently, because it is an experimental medication, Epidiolex® has not been considered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for routine use in Australia.

For more information on the Compassionate Access Scheme for Epidiolex®, please refer to https://www.medicina​lcannabis.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/2147/Fact-sheet-for-compassionate-access-for-Epidiolex.pdf