A woman living with endometriosis in Tipperary is believed to be the first to receive a ministerial licence for cannabis prescription to treat pain associated with this condition.
Aimee Brown, who is expecting her first legal cannabis delivery on Friday, said: “I’m still pinching myself, and the fact that now I can open the door for others and empower them to follow this path is incredible.”
Under this programme, a medical consultant can apply to prescribe cannabis to a patient who has not responded to standard treatments.
The decision has been welcomed by a leading endometriosis advocate Kathleen King, who said: “I think it will open the conversation for many people living with chronic pain and associated symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
Ms Brown has suffered from endometriosis for years, as well as adenomyosis.
“I’m definitely not the only cannabis consumer with endometriosis, but as far as I know I am the first one that is legally recognised for chronic pain,” she said.
Ms Brown, from Dublin originally but now living in Roscrea and studying at TUS Thurles, said she is aware of a woman in Ireland facing prosecution for cultivating a cannabis plant to treat her endometriosis.
“I tried to help her any way I could,” she said. “Now that I am opening doors and showing a light for people like her means so much more to me than the licence for myself.”
A member of Patients for Safe Access, she has frequently highlighted the risks associated with illegally accessing cannabis for pain relief. She said cannabis use and surgery helped her recover from years of severe pain, and to return to education.
In August, a consultant agreed to apply for the licence, which is valid for three months. The application took eight weeks to complete.
“It took me many, many years to get to that step," she said.
She praised her consultant, saying: “He listened to me. He heard what I had to say, particularly about how the pain was affecting my quality of life. He weighed up the fear I had of getting arrested.”
Ms Brown, 30, is now awaiting delivery from the Transvaal pharmacy in The Hague in The Netherlands. “I’m only prescribed at the minute 1g a day, so the prescription is €216 a month,” she said.
If she is assessed as needing a higher dose, she understands that cost would rise.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Since December 2016, the minister for health has approved 278 separate ministerial licences, issued under Section 14 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, to Irish-registered medical practitioners to treat 75 individual patients with prescribed cannabis-based products; 75% of patients have been treated for epilepsy and the remaining 25% of patients for other conditions.”
Endometriosis affects one in 10 girls and women of reproductive age globally, according to the World Health Organization. It is a disease where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, causing pain and sometimes infertility.
The Oireachtas justice committee heard conflicting views on cannabis as medical treatment in July from doctors.