Medical marijuana oil is being used as a treatment for epilepsy. Four children in Idaho who suffer from severe seizures are receiving an experimental, non-psychoactive drug originating from cannabis.
In a related Inquisitr report, a 9-year-old boy suffering with severe autism was successfully treated with medical marijuana oil.
Created last year by Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, the Expanded Access Program treats children suffering from severe epileptic seizures with a trial drug named Epidiolex. The medical marijuana oil program can only take 25 children, and Elke Shaw-Tulloch of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said Monday that four of the slots are filled.
As more parents request access to the program, the health department plans to work with the Federal Drug Administration and GW Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the drug, to expand the program. Currently, 18 additional children are scheduled to be screened.
The program was created after a statewide clinical trial was conducted that tested medical marijuana oil on adults and children. According to Christine Hahn, a state epidemiologist, the results of that testing have not been released, and it is unknown if the drug is actually working.
“This particular one is too early to say,” she said. “There have been… anecdotal reports out of Colorado and other places where they have an artisanal product and they are claiming success. I guess I would say I am guardedly optimistic.”
Hopefully, the cannabis oil program will continue until substantive results are released added Hahn.
Some believe cannabis oil can reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in children with epilepsy. Last year, Idaho lawmakers approved a bill that legalized the use of marijuana extract oil.
However, Otter rejected the bill, saying there was not enough evidence to support those claims. Yet, the Republican governor compromised and signed an executive order authorizing the new cannabis oil program.
Boise resident Clare Carey, whose daughter suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, says the program is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Since similar clinical trials of marijuana oil in other states have already been completed, she believes Epidiolex will be on the market later this year.
“Anyone will be able to access to it, not just 25 people in the program,” Carey said.
After a clinical trial earlier this month, researchers with the University of California, San Francisco, announced that the weed oil reduced seizures by 36.5 percent in a group of 162 children and young adults. Some even experienced a complete remission.
Dr. Maria Roberta Cilio, a senior author and the director of research at the UCSF Pediatric Epilepsy Center, says this testing of the cannabis oil is just the first step.
“This trial is pioneering a new treatment for children with the most severe epilepsies, for whom nothing else works. But we are just at the beginning, combining experts in the field with a brave institution ready to take this on, and courageous patients looking for hope.”
Conducted in 2014, another study by the New York University Langone Medical Center tested the effectiveness of cannabis oil to reduce epileptic seizures of 313 children. According to Dr. Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist who led the trial, the number of convulsive seizures went down by 50 percent on average. He added that a few patients continued to receive benefits even after the trial ended.
While some of the children were removed during the study as the medication did not seem to help, one child did experience an increase in seizures after taking the marijuana oil. Five percent of the patients had side effects, such as changes in liver enzymes or diarrhea.
GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex is a liquid formulation of pure plant-derived cannabidiol, an active ingredient in cannabis. Currently, the drug is not available in the U.S., but medical marijuana suppliers have been making a high-quality cannabis oil for several years.
While testing of marijuana oil continues around the country, parents of children with severe forms of epilepsy are hopeful a drug like Epidiolex will someday help reduce or eliminate seizures. So far, health officials in Idaho are confident their cannabis oil program will help.
[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]