ACC agrees to fund medicinal cannabis for severely disabled man

ACC has agreed to back pay and fund medicinal cannabis for a severely disabled man, in a move that could pave the way for thousands of others living in chronic pain. 

Jamie O'Mara was brain damaged at birth and would suffer from hundreds of seizures a day. 

His mother, Sally O'Mara, told Newshub at point, his seizures were "debilitating".

"Where he's not been able to move forward or focus, or function in any way. They're been quite debilitating because they're so constant."

Doctors and midwives recommend all babies get a vitamin K injection after birth as it helps the blood clot and stops bleeding.

But Jamie never received it and suffered a massive brain bleed. 

He had three surgeries after developing epilepsy - one where half of his brain was removed - but the seizures only got worse. 

The O'Mara's say they had almost lost hope until they turned to medicinal cannabis. But it was a long wait for approval and during the wait, a massive seizure left the 35-year-old fighting for his life.

"If he had died that night I would've been left wondering if it could've helped him or not," said Sally. 

Luckily, Jamie survived, and in 2016 the family finally started using medicinal cannabis, which they say saved his life. 

It's reduced his seizures by 80 to 90 percent, but it's not cheap - the products cost $500 per week.

"The cost has been just short of $37000 and it was stressful," said Sally. 

The O'Mara's applied to ACC for funding, but it was initially declined in April 2019 on the grounds that medicinal cannabis isn't the usual way to manage epilepsy. 

A review overturned that decision and ACC has now agreed to reimburse the family, and fund the drugs for the next six months. 

Sally says the relief is beyond words.

"It's just such a relief, it's indescribable,"

ACC says Jamie's case is one of just 10 that have received funding for cannabis-based products since 2008.

It says it granted a six-month funding period because it's taking "a cautious approach" and wants to "monitor if rehab outcomes are achieved".

It's now prompted calls for ACC to offer medicinal cannabis funding to others on a three-month trial basis. 

So some of the one in six Kiwis who, like Jamie O'Mara, suffer from chronic pain or debilitating conditions can live a much easier life.