Pubdate: Mon, 03 Feb 2014
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2014 SF Newspaper Company LLC
Author: Chris Roberts
Bookmark: (GW Pharmaceuticals)


Children as young as a year old are receiving a marijuana-derived 
drug at UC San Francisco, where over the next year researchers will 
conduct the world's first study of the banned plant's ability to 
treat severe forms of epilepsy.

The children enrolled in the study all suffer from epilepsy so severe 
that traditional drugs have little or no effect. Some suffer up to 90 
seizures a day, which if left uncontrolled can lead to brain damage.

Last month, they began receiving doses of a liquid-based drug derived 
from the cannabis plant called Epidiolex. Manufactured by U.K.-based 
drug company GW Pharmaceuticals, the drug contains no THC, or 
tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

Instead, the drug is pure CBD - cannabidiol - a nonpsychoactive 
compound found in marijuana that has had medical efficacy in adults 
for conditions such as multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.

Researchers hope to find a "desperately needed" treatment for 
children with uncontrolled seizures and to see if CBD, 
"well-tolerated and safe in adults," has the same palliative 
potential for kids.

In April, UCSF became the first research hospital in the country to 
give Epidiolex to children.

Results were positive enough to prompt the current study, led by Dr. 
Maria Roberta Cilio and Dr. Joseph Sullivan of the hospital's 
Pediatric Epilepsy Center.

A total of 150 patients may eventually be enrolled in the study. 
Research began at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and at New York 
University's Langone Medical Center, with patients at four more 
medical centers to follow pending FDA approval.

Children have become a recent focal point in the country's debate 
over medical marijuana. Small amounts of the plant are available to 
adults with a doctor's recommendation in 20 states, including California.

But anecdotal accounts of cannabis's ability to calm seizures have 
led some parents to bypass the research phase and relocate to places 
like Colorado, where adults can legally purchase and cultivate the 
drug, in order to give marijuana to their children.

Marijuana remains banned under federal law.

GW Pharmaceuticals is the first such large pharmaceutical firm to 
embrace the palliative power of cannabis.

The company already markets a cannabinoid-based spray called Sativex 
for MS spasticity in the U.K., Germany, Canada, Spain and Denmark.

Sativex is in clinical trials in the U.S. for MS and cancer-related pain.
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