Peter Dunne approves cannabis product for Tourette's Syndrome patient

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne was satisfied with an application for a new medicinal cannabis product to be used ...
CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne was satisfied with an application for a new medicinal cannabis product to be used in New Zealand.

A new medicinal cannabis product has been given the green light by the Government for a patient with a severe case of Tourette's Syndrome.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has approved Aceso Calm Spray, a non-pharmaceutical grade cannabis-based product, following an application from a patient's consultant.

This is only the second time a cannabis product has been approved by Dunne – the first was last year when Nelson teenager Alex Renton was given Elixinol to treat "status epilepticus", a kind of prolonged seizure.

Renton died a month after seeking approval for the cannabis treatment and the only product currently available in New Zealand that doesn't require Dunne's approval is Sativex.

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Dunne understands the application was received by the Ministry of Health on Friday and was passed onto him on Monday morning.

He approved the application only a few hours later.

"While Sativex has previously been shown to be efficacious in treating (Tourette's Syndrome), the Aceso product has been chosen due to its reduced psychoactive side effects," Dunne said.

The patient, whose name Dunne wouldn't reveal for confidentiality reasons, had previously been using Sativex.

Medicinal cannabis is hitting the headlines lately after revelations a number of high-profile Kiwis have illegally used it.

Broadcaster Paul Holmes and cricket great Martin Crowe both turned to cannabis for pain relief before they died and former union boss Helen Kelly had her application for medicinal cannabis withdrawn.

Kelly said her application never made it to Dunne because the ministry required more information than her doctor could provide.

"For such a high-profile application he should have been actively involved in it."

Kelly wants medicinal cannabis approval to be handed over to doctors and for the ministry and Dunne to be left out of it.

"Everyone is excited that the Government is shifting on this but it's actually a debacle."

Kelly, who is suffering from terminal lung cancer, said her own health isn't very good at the moment but she continues to source her own cannabis for pain relief.

A review of the guidelines for approving medicinal cannabis are currently underway but Dunne said given the latest application met seven of the eight existing criteria, he approved it.

"The application was comprehensive, innovative and considered. The Director of Mental Health and the acting Director of Public Health recommended its approval," he said.

"Although it has been suggested that the information requirements for applications are too stringent, an aspect I expect the current guidelines review will look into, the application I received today suggests that they are not an impediment to robust, clinician-led, assessment-based approaches", Dunne said.

Prime Minister John Key didn't see the latest application approval has a step towards broadening access to medicinal cannabis.

"No, I think (Dunne's) just been working his way through cases as and when they're received. I'm happy with the process we currently have."

"We're always looking at international trends around the world and trying to get better information on what's effective and what's not...as we've seen the process in the past has worked," he said.

Kelly has previously criticised the Government's application process for being too complicated and the criteria too difficult to meet.

Key said he hadn't been through the process so couldn't comment but hadn't received any complaints from his electorate office that it was too stringent.
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