Ava Barry: the Young Girl with a Cannabis Licence

Ava Barry is only 8 years old, and suffers from a rare, extremely debilitating form of epilepsy named Dravet syndrome. At one point, Ava suffered 16 seizures in 36 hours. Unlike many other countries, the Irish government granted Ava Barry and her mother, Vera Twomey, a licence to use cannabis at her home in County Cork, Ireland. However, they could not get the medication they required (THC oil and CBD oil) from Ireland, having to travel regularly to the Netherlands for Ava’s cannabinoid-based medications. This cost them €12,000 (approx $14,000).

Kilcrea Abbey; County Cork; Co. Cork; Ireland; Church; Abbey.
Kilcrea Abbey, Nr Ballincollig, County Cork

Fortunately, as of this year, those expenses will be reimbursed by the Irish Department of Health. Prior to this ruling, Vera and her husband had to pay for the expenses out of their own pocket, alongside donations raised through a GoFundMe page. To quote Vera in the Irish Independent:

“Ava’s medication is being reimbursed, her medication is being respected the same as any other anti-epileptic medication is respected and covered.

“To all the people who need medical cannabis for their epilepsy or their pain or for whatever medical reason, you can do it too, it can be done.”

This also means that cannabis-based medications are available under Ireland’s Long Term Illness Scheme, for which the qualifying conditions are:

  • Intellectual disability
  • Mental illness (for people under 16 only)
  • Diabetes insipidus
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Haemophilia
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Phenylketonuria
  • Epilepsy
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Spina bifida
  • Muscular dystrophies
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Parkinsonism
  • Acute leukaemia
  • Conditions arising from use of Thalidomide

Anyone who’s read our conditions page will note that many of the conditions listed above are health problems cannabis may potentially help with. Whether or not Ireland will make medical cannabis for all the conditions above, we do not know, but hopefully they take a rational, scientific, evidence-driven mind to the issue. When it comes to epilepsy, there is a significant body of evidence suggesting that cannabinoids such as CBD, CBDV, THC and THCA have huge therapeutic potential.

Chemical structure of THCA. Author: Cacycle.

Furthermore, these cannabinoids look to be far more well-tolerated than the cocktail of benzodiazepine-based drugs currently used to treat Dravet syndrome. In fact, over the last 12 months, several controlled trials have shown CBD to be superior to placebo in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. We have certainly reached a turning point for medical cannabis – let’s hope we can now give scientists and doctors more opportunities to do similar trials with cannabinoid-terpenoid medications with other conditions, wherever possible.

Medical pills; pills; medication

Just as in the U.S., the medical cannabis movement is gaining traction throughout Europe. This is interesting, especially as many countries in Europe such as the Netherlands and Czech Republic, were and are some of the main forerunners of legalized medical cannabis. In many ways, much of the rest of Europe has to now play catch up with other nations when it comes to the laws regarding cannabis.

Cases like Ava’s are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many people the world over who are suffering from many different conditions where cannabis could potentially help; and yet, the plant is illegal, even in countries where people have been using cannabis as medicine through most of their history. Remember: the cannabis plant has been legal longer than it’s been illegal. Maybe our elders were right. Cannabis should be legal.

Written by
Dr. Lewis Jassey

Dr. Lewis Jassey has been a pediatrician over the last 25 years, run a practice of 15,000 patients, and been on staff at five major hospitals for over two decades. Dr. Jassey has carved a niche for himself successfully working with patients on the spectrum, as well as patients with a variety of mental health issues. He lectures on a national level, with expertise in pharmacogenetics and pharmacology.

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