Cannabis: a costly cure

Some users of medicinal cannabis say they are having to rely on support from family and friends to meet the high cost of the therapy which is not subsidised by the Federal Government.

Many people like 14-year-old Skyla York of Leeming rely on CBD oil. Photo: Bronwyn York.

Since the McGowan government relaxed restrictions in 2019 more people have been approved to use the drug to help with symptoms of serious illnesses.

The current Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme does not cover the cost of medicinal cannabis prescriptions as they are not approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association.  


Staff at Perth Children’s Hospital Neurology Department have been seeking relief for Skyla. Photo: Charlotte Spraggs.

Skyla is only the second person in WA to be diagnosed with the rare brain disease Rasmussen’s Encephalitis, and uses CBD oil to help with her seizures.

The family must spend $4000 a month on the prescription and cannot sustain this payment without support.

If Skyla’s seizures become uncontrolled, she will have to have a serious surgery called a “hemispherectomy”.

In the video below, Skyla and her mother Bronwyn talk about how financial pressures are affecting the family.

Bronwyn York says cannabis has made a huge difference to her daughter’s attitude and health.

“She’s not suffering with anxiety nearly as much as she used to because the seizures have reduced in frequency and intensity,” she said.

“Her daily worry about them happening whilst she’s at school, at netball, with her friends, is not there because and she doesn’t have to miss out on opportunities as much.”

The National Drug Research Institute’s Professor Steve Allsop says that we should focus on making sure we allocate research into areas of concern such as childhood epilepsy.

“The evidence for the effectiveness of cannabis at the moment is insufficient, however, that is not to say it doesn’t work it just means we can’t make bold claims,” Allsop said.

Skyla maintains a positive outlook despite the struggles she faces. Photo: Bronwyn York.