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Mum's delight Medicinal cannabis campaigner Vera Twomey welcomes access to funded prescriptions

It will be available through a consultant for people suffering muscle spasms from MS, nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy or those who have severe epilepsy.

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Vera Twomey and her daughter Ava who has Dravet’s Syndrome

Vera Twomey and her daughter Ava who has Dravet’s Syndrome

Vera Twomey and her daughter Ava who has Dravet’s Syndrome

Campaigner Vera Twomey has hailed today as “a long time coming” as people are granted access to medicinal cannabis in certain circumstances for the first time. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has announced funding for the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme which was introduced into legislation in 2019.

The delivery of the programme will allow consultants prescribe medicinal cannabis for a number of medical conditions where conventional treatment has failed.

It will be available through a consultant for people suffering muscle spasms from MS, nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy or those who have severe epilepsy.

Cork mother Vera, who told Newstalk Breakfast this day has been a long time coming, has said the drug saved her daughter Ava’s life.

Ava was diagnosed as a baby with Dravet syndrome, a severe type of epilepsy characterised by prolonged seizures. It is a rare condition that affects one in 20,000 to 40,000 people worldwide.

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Vera Twomey with her daughter Ava.

Vera Twomey with her daughter Ava.

Vera Twomey with her daughter Ava.

Medical marijuana has left her 95% seizure-free, happy, able to attend school and independent of heavy medications.

Prior to the pandemic, Ms Twomey had been travelling to Holland every 12 weeks to collect medicinal cannabis.

"I believed that this was always going to come eventually - I don't mean that to sound in anyway arrogant or anything like that,” she said.

"Sometimes there are things that have to come to pass, and there has been resistance to all of us that have spoken up about getting access for medical cannabis for our families.

"But sometimes the opposition to what you're looking for is unreasonable, and the argument surrounding medical cannabis is one of those situations.

"There was determination and persistence necessary to be able to see it through.”

She said credit is due to everyone involved, including Minister Donnelly.

But she added: "It's unfortunate that it wasn't funded from the word go when it was announced initially."

She said the change would mean that patients prescribed medical cannabis will now be able to afford it.

"These patients will now be able to take up that offer, because a lot of people were in a situation where they simply could not afford the outlay of the money necessary to pay for the medication".

Vera explained: "This will mean that if the medication is being refunded from the word go, that people will be able to afford it, to be able to move forward with a prescription.

"Otherwise you're in a situation where you have to pay for the medication and wait for a period of time for it to be refunded."

She said her daughter is doing well despite the ongoing pandemic.

"The Covid has been hard on everybody, especially for our kids with additional needs - missing school is very tough.

"You're worried about them regressing and everything, without the attention that they get in school and the support. But she is well".

On April 6 last year, the Department of Health arranged for the medicine to be delivered to their home instead.

Initially the delivery of the medication was only to continue while public health restrictions were in place but the Health Minister announced last December that patients would no longer need to travel abroad for their medication.

Speaking at the time, Mr Donnelly said: “Many patients and their families have shared stories with both me and officials in my department about how this initiative has made a huge improvement to their lives.

"They spoke about the stress of having to travel regularly and the associated health risks with that, as well as their concerns that they would run out of their medication.

“I am so pleased that these problems will now be a thing of the past for them. There will no longer be a need for them to travel abroad in order to collect their prescribed cannabis products. Instead, they can focus on their health and wellbeing.

"The welfare of patients and their families comes first and I am happy to reassure them that they will no longer have to personally source their prescriptions."

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