The NSW government will begin a medicinal-cannabis trial at the Calvary Mater Newcastle hospital for patients with advanced cancer “in the coming months”.
“Researchers are finalising the necessary arrangements to enrol the first patients soon,” a spokeswoman for the government’s Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation said.
“The researchers are importing a leaf product, Bedrobinol, which is produced in The Netherlands and will be vapourised.”
The aim was to develop a better understanding of how cannabis products “can provide relief to patients with a range of debilitating or terminal illnesses, to improve their quality of life”.
The government said it had to obtain a legally produced, standardised product from a country that was able to export to Australia.
This was needed while the NSW government awaited a federal licensing scheme to begin in November.
This scheme will enable the cultivation of cannabis in Australia for medical and related scientific purposes.
The Newcastle Herald reported last week that a dozen children in the Hunter-New England region would receive medicinal cannabis to treat severe epilepsy.
This NSW government trial has begun at John Hunter Children’s Hospital, led by Dr John Lawson.
It involved the use of Epidiolex, an experimental product, which GW Pharmaceuticals developed.
Dr Lawson said it contained cannabidiol, which was “non-psychoactive”.
In other words, it does not include THC – the cannabis compound that gets people “stoned”.
Charlestown’s Tim Harding questioned why the government chose a foreign company to supply the cannabis for the trial at John Hunter Children’s Hospital.
Mr Harding, whose daughter Arielle suffers from drug-resistant epilepsy, said he hoped Epidiolex worked because “the kids need it”.
“But I don’t think it’s the ideal situation. This is a British company,” he said.
“There’s loads of credible companies here, who have been trying to get into this market for a long time, with credible products to sell.
“I don’t understand why we need to go so far afield to achieve something we could have done far cheaper here.”
The government’s spokeswoman said GW Pharmaceuticals was “a world leader in the research and development of novel cannabis-based prescription medicines and has more than 17 years of cannabinoid research experience”.
Mr Harding also raised concerns about supply and price of medicinal cannabis, when the changes take effect in November.
“We’re getting concerned about the actual amount of acres that they’re going to allow companies to grow.”
He said if the government did not enable enough cannabis to be grown to meet demand, “there’s an artificially manufactured price hike”.