Danny Battershill, who suffers from chronic and aggressive eczema, is trialling cannabis oil – his “last hope” – after raising money from the community. Danny spent eight months in hospital last year, including weeks in isolation, and hopes life will be different thanks to medicinal cannabis.
After just three days taking a few tiny drops of a medicinal cannabis oil product, Danny Battershill says his life has changed.
The 29-year-old Rodney resident has gained medical approval to trial a legally imported Canadian product, after proving that other medications for his chronic eczema no longer work.
He says treatments such as steroids, chemotherapy and opiate painkillers were making the condition worse, thinning his skin and leaving him susceptible to infections, heat and stress.
He is pinning his hopes on medicinal cannabis, which he began taking last week, after eight months in hospital, multiple superbug infections and more than one near-death experience last year.
The product contains cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive drug. It does not produce a ‘high’, but is used medicinally to help with conditions such as inflammation, stress and anxiety.
Danny says the first few days of taking the drops produced an instant improvement, helping him to sleep and eat.
The next stage was to see what the product could do when his condition flared up. He describes a flare-up as burning and itching so strong that it is like being eaten alive by mosquitoes.
“I held back on my steroids and antihistamines to produce a flare up and just two drops stopped it in its tracks,” Danny says. “The sweats, shakes and shivers were gone.”
He says the effects of the drug on his condition are being monitored and he hopes that the results could lead to a clinical trial to prove CBD’s worth for people with Crohn’s disease, turrets and Parkinson’s.
Trials are also underway to test the drug’s effectiveness on childhood epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder and the side effects of chemotherapy.
It took almost a year to obtain the drug legally with assistance from the charitable organisation Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ (MCANZ).
MCANZ coordinator Shane Le Brun says this is because the drug is still being trialled and is an unregistered medicine. Doctors have been able to prescribe CBD products without needing permission from the Health Minister since last September, but Shane says many don’t.
CBD is currently a Class B drug under New Zealand law but this could change with the second reading of Labour’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill expected this month.
MP Dr David Clark’s bill will give the Ministry of Health the power to set up a scheme to govern the cultivation of medicinal cannabis, and the prescription process. It also proposes amending the Act so that CBD and products made from it are no longer classed as controlled drugs.
Shane estimates that around 100 people in New Zealand are currently taking CBD and the research is promising for a wide range of conditions. “There is pre-clinical evidence that CBD could work as an anti-inflammatory where other products can’t, because it uses a different pathway in the body,” Shane says.
That evidence has been enough to provide hope to many people.
“We have dozens of enquiries a week and a lot of patients are waiting for more affordable products,” he says.
Affordability was another massive hurdle for Danny, who says many people give up trying to obtain the drug, because of the cost. His 25ml bottle, plus one repeat, cost $570. The doctor’s consultation cost $230.
MCANZ stepped in and the Givealittle page it set up, called Danny’s Last Shot, raised $1689 – enough for a supply to last two to three months.
What happens then is something Danny is not thinking about yet. “I truly cannot thank this community enough for all the incredible support it has shown me,” he says.
Danny’s aim, now that his trial is underway, is to help others, including the hundreds of people who have contacted him with their own stories. “I have heard some heartbreaking stories, and I want to help give those people a voice,” Danny says. “I have tried getting CBD from ‘green fairies’ in the past, but I wanted to take the legal option and be part of a campaign to make this drug more readily available at an affordable price.”
Danny shares his CBD progress on his earthstonearts facebook page. Donations: givealittle.co.nz/cause/dannyscbd