Victoria will take part in a ground-breaking international clinical trial of a new medicine to treat paediatric patients with refractory epilepsy.
Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Health Jill Hennessy today announced that Austin Health had signed on to be part of a clinical trial of synthetic cannabidiol developed by a US pharmaceutical company, Insys Therapeutics Inc.
The international clinical trial is investigating whether the medicine will be effective in treating certain types of childhood epilepsy. It is made from a synthetic version of a therapeutic compound usually found in the cannabis plant, with the trial to investigate appropriate dosages within a small group of patients.
The clinical trial will potentially provide another treatment option for patients whose quality of life is severely compromised by ill health.
One such patient is 14 year old Nicholas, who has suffered from prolonged, daily seizures his entire life. This medicine may offer a new treatment option to control his symptoms, where other medicines have failed. Nicholas and his family hope that he can qualify to participate in this important trial.
The trial in Australia will be led by Austin Health’s Director of Paediatrics, Professor Ingrid Scheffer, who is a world expert on paediatric neurology and her research group was the first to uncover a gene for epilepsy.
The Andrews Labor Government has provided funding to Austin Health to support this trial.
Separate to this pharmaceutical trial, the Labor Government introduced new laws into the Victorian Parliament in December last year that will allow families to access medicinal cannabis in exceptional circumstances.
The Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2015 is an Australian-first piece of legislation that will implement the Victorian Law Reform Commission Report of Medicinal Cannabis, establishing a legal framework for the cultivation, manufacturing, supply, patient eligibility and support ongoing research in the field. The legislation will be debated in the Lower House when Parliament resumes next week.
Quotes attributable to Premier Daniel Andrews
“No family should ever have to choose between breaking the law and watching their child suffer.”
“I have seen firsthand how medicinal cannabis can change lives – and that is why we are making sure families can access it as quickly as possible.”
Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy
"By supporting this trial we are working to further grow the evidence base for the use of medicinal cannabis. The more we can learn, the more we will be able to help the children who need it the most.”
“We know the difference medicinal cannabis can make to people’s lives. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to help families legally access this treatment securely and safely.”
Austin Health Director of Paediatrics, Professor Ingrid Scheffer AO
“We are very excited about this trial as it will establish if cannabidiol is an effective treatment for severe childhood epilepsy.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020