Helen Kelly's medicinal cannabis application was driven by 'political motives'

Helen Kelly didn't seek re-election for Council of Trade Unions president after being diagnosed with terminal lung ...
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Helen Kelly didn't seek re-election for Council of Trade Unions president after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer last year.

Former union boss Helen Kelly has spoken out about her "political motives" for applying for medicinal cannabis.

Kelly's oncologist, Dr Anthony Falkov, who applied and later withdrew an application to the Ministry of Health for a non-pharmaceutical grade cannabis product, told the ministry he believed Kelly was making a "political point in trying to seek medicinal cannabis".

Kelly stands by that and says the comment isn't a criticism of her as she discussed her motives with Falkov.

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"He's a very good person and it was unfortunate he got dragged into it."

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"People said, why are you doing this when you're getting what you need - I said, well there's people who aren't getting what they need."

Kelly said people were taking risks to illegally provide her with cannabis for pain relief and she warned Falkov the issue would be "high profile" and he would face criticism.

In a report from the Ministry of Health to health minister Jonathan Coleman and associate health minister Peter Dunne, Falkov is quoted saying Sativex, the only Government-approved medicinal cannabis, was an "appropriate alternative".

In January Falkov applied to the ministry for approval to prescribe and import Bloom Farms Highlighter Sativa and Indica cannabis oil inhalers to help with pain relief associated with Kelly's terminal lung cancer.

The ministry assessed the application and concluded it had "insufficient information to enable a decision to be reached".

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Dunne was briefed about the decision and asked the ministry to follow-up with Falkov to see if the outstanding information could be sourced.

The following day Falkov informed the ministry he was also preparing an application for Sativex.

On Tuesday Kelly said Falkov had "assumed" she would approve of the Sativex application but when he realised she didn't want it he stopped pursuing it.

After Falkov made his initial application the ministry repeatedly contacted him over 10 days trying to gather the extra information about the alternative products.

According to the report, when Falkov eventually responded he said he "simply didn't have the time to research the product requested by Ms Kelly".

He was also comfortable that Sativex was an "appropriate alternative as it was already available in an approved pharmaceutical form".

Falkov told the ministry he was "appreciative of the support and help he had received" from the ministry during the application process.

"He had no criticism of the application process, other than it was time consuming and difficult to obtain reliable information about no-pharmaceutical dose form of cannabis," the report said.

Kelly wants alternative "measured products" to be made available, which she says would have helped broadcaster Paul Holmes and cricket legend Martin Crowe with their pain relief before they died.

Instead she says they were forced to "sneak around" and use cannabis illegally.

A spokesman for Dunne said there had been "ongoing disagreement about how Ms Kelly's application was processed".

"The information provided by officials to Minister Dunne speaks for itself," he said.

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 - Stuff

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