The Irish government’s Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) has been criticized by some medical professionals treating epilepsy patients. The program is intended to allow patients access to safe cannabis-based treatments containing CBD.
However, it has been reported that no products containing pure CBD have been accepted for use under the program, and that the four products accepted all contain THC.
Dr. Colin Doherty, a consultant neurologist at St James Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, told Pat Kenny on The Pat Kenny Show that they need these drugs for just a few patients. “We need to have a product like this available for a small number of patients in Ireland, and we are not talking about every person with epilepsy,” he said. “We are talking about maybe 300 to 400 people who have the worst forms of epilepsy. These are people with seizures happening every single day, who have gone through every single treatment available, including surgeries and device implantations. These people are at risk of severe mobility, and even death.
Doherty notes that advocates and people suffering from seizures have been asking for access to cannabis since 2017. “There is growing evidence, and there was in 2017, that if we can get CBD to these people, we will have an improvement,” Doherty continued. “If we use this on the right person, about 10 percent of those people will go from daily seizure to nothing.”
One example is Regina Downey’s 18-year-old son, Alex, who suffers from epilepsy and has recently started taking CBD. She is calling on her government to allow her son to have cannabis related medical treatment through the MCAP. “He would on average maybe get about four or five seizures a day,” Downey said. “Every couple of weeks, he would get chronic seizures, but in the last few years, we have tried everything. He has gone through surgeries, he has had a vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) inserted, and we have tried every medication that there is. Unfortunately, no medication is suitable for Alex.”
Alex has been diagnosed with refractory epilepsy, and according to Downey, he is at the stage where crossing the road could be dangerous. There is a high probability of him having a seizure and falling. “He could go up the stairs, get a seizure, and fall,” she said. “So, basically, Alex needs to be shadowed 24/7.”
However, after Alex began CBD treatments, Downey says the change was very noticeable. “Alex has been on CBD for three weeks and his mood has changed entirely,” she said. “He is not as tired, and the seizures, Alex could get three or four seizures on a daily basis. At the moment, he can go three days without getting a seizure. He has been weaned on this, you have to start off at a very small dose and work up to a certain level. We are still in the early stages, but his sibling and I can see a difference already. It is a huge progress at the moment.”
Downey added that if all goes well, this will be a long-term solution. However, it may not be feasible for them without some reimbursement under the MCAP. “We are hoping that this will be the medication that will suit Alex, but it is just so expensive,” she said. “We will be relying on it. It is very difficult, and unfortunately, it will not be possible in the long run to keep doing this. So, we hope there will be reimbursement for it.
“Alex is an 18-year-old boy, and he is hoping to go on to college, but seizures are going to hold him back,” Downey continued. “We are just hoping that he has a better quality of life and that he will be able to move on.”