Medical marijuana funding approved for Northland woman

Alisha Butt's parents say she needs Sativex to prevent multiple and ongoing daily seizures

Alisha Butt's parents say she needs Sativex to prevent multiple and ongoing daily seizures

A woman who may have otherwise died from her regular severe seizures has been granted approval for medical marijuana funding.

Alisha Butt, 20, has the mentality of a toddler and is unable to speak.

Her seizures had presented a huge problem for specialists who were unable to adequately treat her, leading to the possibility she could end up in a coma from one and die.

But thanks to medicinal marijuana extract Sativex, Alisha is able to live a more comfortable life.

"Since being on Sativex for over 4 months, she has shown a great improvement," mum Sushila Butt said.

"Her seizures have decreased immensely and now, after long last, Alisha has been able to enjoy a better quality of life without the disturbance of erratic and continuous prolonged seizures."

Alisha, who has been admitted to hospital numerous times from her uncontrolled seizures, had previously suffered side effects from other drugs trialled on her.

Her father Royd Butt said the new treatment cover was a relief - although it hadn't been easy getting funding from the Government pharmaceuticals agency Pharmac.

"The thing is, we got the message from the specialist that she could go into a coma and die because it had gotten that bad," he said.

Then, in September, Alisha was approved by the minister of Health to receive Sativex - which contains cannabidiol with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis - but the family had to fund the $1000-a-month treatment themselves.

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It wasn't until January 22 that the Government agreed to fund the medicinal marijuana as a prescription.

"It's completely covered now," Sushila said. "It will be fully funded for my daughter.

Sativex can be prescribed in New Zealand, subject to approval by the Minister of Health. Ministerial approval for pharmaceutical grade cannabis products such as Sativex is delegated to Ministry officials.

The family's doctor had made an application to Pharmac to fund the drug for Alisha under exceptional circumstances. 

It was Alisha's parents who campaigned to have the funding approved, though.

"I have been writing to the District Health Board and Pharmac nearly every day," Sushila said.

The drug should be readily available to New Zealanders who needed it, Royd said, rather than taking months of pleading for a special dispensation.

"It basically saved our child's life and helped her a great deal," he said.

"If anyone else is in the same situation they should have the opportunity to have it as well, if they want it."

 - Stuff

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