Vera Twomey to camp at Dáil for daughter Ava’s medicinal cannabis

Vera Twomey in a wheelchair with supporters.

The Joint Committee on Health has brought forward to today its meeting with the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) to discuss its scientific report on medicinal cannabis.

The meeting will begin at noon as Cork mother Vera Twomey, who is campaigning for new laws to allow her sick daughter, Ava, get access to medicinal cannabis, is due to arrive at Leinster House after spending a week walking from Cork to Dublin.

Ava, seven, has Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy which causes violent nd severe seizures. Ms Twomey believes medicinal cannabis will help control the seizures.

However, the family’s request for medicinal cannabis under a special licence pending the establishment of a compassionate access programme was rejected because it was not supported by medical consultants.

Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health, moved last night to clarify the advice given to the Minister for Health in relation to the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

He said a process is underway to establish an access programme for cannabis-based treatments - the first of its kind in Ireland.

Dr Holohan said that while the programme is being established, the minister can provide a licence for access to cannabis for medical purposes in individual cases.

“The granting of a licence must, however, be premised on an appropriate application being submitted to the Department of Health, which is endorsed by a consultant who is responsible for the management of the patient and who is prepared to monitor the effects of the treatment over time,” he said.

“Therefore, it is crucial that the granting of any such licence takes due care and consideration of the potential unintended consequences associated with the prescription of cannabis, a schedule one controlled drug, for medical purposes, and that its use is endorsed by a consultant who is familiar with and responsible for the care of the individual for whom the licence application is being made.”

However, Ms Twomey said the law needs to change to allow her consultants sign their application.

Despite suffering from tonsillitis and a knee injury which has confined her to a wheelchair since the weekend, Ms Twomey said that she is determined to finish her 280km protest march outside the Dáil today.

She vowed last night to remain camped outside Leinster House until she gets access to medicinal cannabis to treat her daughter’s seizures.

Health Minister Simon Harris welcomed news last night that the health committee meeting, which had been due to take place next month, has been brought forward to today.

Committee chairman Michael Harty said: “The minister asked for the views of the HPRA on recent developments in the use of cannabis for medical purposes from a scientific standpoint, and I hope it will assist him in considering these policy decisions in making medicinal cannabis products available for the three clinical circumstances identified in the report.

“In particular, can such products be made available under ministerial licence or will legislative changes be required?”

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