NSW Health blocks woman's access to medicinal cannabis despite federal government approval

LOSING HOPE: Les McLean fears NSW Health is making it harder for regional patients like his wife Kathy to access medicinal cannabis. Picture: Tumut and Adelong Times
LOSING HOPE: Les McLean fears NSW Health is making it harder for regional patients like his wife Kathy to access medicinal cannabis. Picture: Tumut and Adelong Times

A family are at their wits' end after NSW Health twice rejected their application for medicinal cannabis, despite having already been granted federal approval for the drug.

Kathy McLean, 69, suffers from Lewy Body dementia, a debilitating brain disorder that causes her extreme pain and anxiety.

Kathy was granted federal approval to use medicinal cannabis by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in September, however, NSW Health are continuing to block her access to the much-needed drug.

Lex McLean, Kathy's husband and full-time carer, said he fears the state government is making it harder for regional families to access the drug.

"In our rejection letter, one of the reasons they gave for blocking Kathy's access to the drug was that we live in Tumut but our specialist is in Sydney," Mr McLean said.

To say that she can't have it just because we live in a country town is discriminatory. From Wagga, we can be in Sydney in an hour, so we shouldn't be disadvantaged just because we live in Tumut.

Les McLean, Kathy's husband and carer

After consulting a series of doctors and specialists, the McLeans now understand that access to medicinal cannabis would ease Kathy's pain, reduce her anxiety, and increase her appetite.

Access to medicinal cannabis would not only ease Kathy's suffering; it would also make Lex's job as her full-time carer far more manageable. 

"You just can't relax. At the moment, I have to wash, dry, and dress Kath every morning, I have to feed her porridge, I have to get her in and out of bed in the middle of the night whenever her legs get sore," Mr McLean said. 

Kathy's daughter Kirsten Graham said the family sampled a low-level hemp-based oil earlier this year, which worked wonders for Kathy's health.

"Her anxiety levels went way down, it relaxed her a bit, and it just helped her with life," Ms Graham said.

"Then NSW Health said they don't have enough clinical evidence the drug would help, but it's a catch 22 - because how can you get evidence if you can't trial it?"

Estimates suggest around 100,000 patients are currently accessing medicinal cannabis on the black market. 

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