Medicinal cannabis still too costly for Christchurch woman

A medical cannabis campaigner says Peter Dunne’s move to take leave decisions on medicinal cannabis products will make very little difference to those needing the drug for pain relief.

The high cost of medicinal cannabis means the drug will remain out of reach for a Christchurch woman, despite the Government making it more accessible.

The woman, who did not want to be named, developed fibromyalgia​ after the February 2011 earthquakes and has been in pain since.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that often begins after physical or emotional trauma. Symptoms include widespread muscle or musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, mood, and sleep disorders.

A Christchurch woman who suffers from fibromyalgia says she wants affordable access to medicinal cannabis over having to ...

A Christchurch woman who suffers from fibromyalgia says she wants affordable access to medicinal cannabis over having to take a “concoction of medication” that isn’t as effective.

“Imagine you’ve got a really bad case of muscular flu. It [the pain] never goes away. It’s all over: Muscles, joints, nerves,” the woman said.

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She took a “concoction of medication” daily to alleviate the pain, but it was not effective, especially when flare-ups caused severe pain, she said.

She had used cannabis illegally in the past and it relieved her pain effectively.

“You get to the point where you’ll try anything, but I don’t want to break the law anymore.”

On Tuesday, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced the rules for accessing medicinal cannabis would be loosened. 

Seriously ill patients seeking medicinal cannabis to ease their symptoms will no longer have to take their case to the Minister of Health.

Instead, the Ministry of Health will have ultimate sign-off for all non-pharmaceutical grade medicinal cannabis applications.

The woman was hopeful the change would be the first step towards making it easier to access medicinal cannabis, but the cost of such drugs remained the biggest issue.

A month’s worth of mouth spray Sativex would cost her about $1300.

A registered nurse working in a Christchurch hospital, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed the law change was a step in the right direction.

“I’ve had patients that have secretly admitted to using cannabis for pain relief and other symptoms, but [who are] deathly afraid to tell there doctors out of fear of judgement.

“I’ve struggled to be able to advocate for these patients out of fear I too will be judged or my practice questioned.”

Medicinal cannabis was often a good alternative to pain-relief drugs that had heavy side-effects, including addiction, she said. 

She hoped cannabis-based medicine would become more readily available and that doctors and nurses would receive formal training and education on their benefits.

“I believe we have a long way to go to change the public attitude on this, but one day I’d like to see patients not only being offered these drugs but really being supported by healthcare professionals.”

* Audio courtesy of RNZ

 – Stuff

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