Pubdate: Tue, 04 Mar 2014
Source: Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Copyright: 2014 Sun-Sentinel Company
Authors: Robert McCoppin and Duaa Eldeib, Tribune Newspapers
Bookmark: (GW Pharmaceuticals)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


They Tout Effective Epilepsy Treatment; Some Experts Wary

Nicole Gross was so desperate to find relief for her son's 
near-constant, debilitating seizures that she moved him from the 
Chicago suburb of Naperville to Colorado so he could receive medical marijuana.

Weeks after Chase Gross, 8, started taking a marijuana oil extract 
through a dropper, his mother said she saw a dramatic decrease in the 
number of daily seizures he had, allowing him to make developmental 
leaps such as dressing himself and learning new sign language words, 
since his condition has left him unable to speak.

Gross became so convinced of pot's effectiveness in treating her 
son's severe epilepsy that she joined a growing number of parents and 
advocates lobbying Illinois to change its rules-not only to add 
epilepsy to the list of qualifying conditions but to make medical 
marijuana available to children, as Colorado and several other states do.

The drug's positive effects on Chase, his mother said, were "shocking."

Public opinion has been shifting in favor of medical marijuana: 
Twenty states have legalized it, and the vast majority allow children 
access to it.

But its use, particularly among juveniles, remains controversial.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, where it is classified as a 
dangerous substance with no medical value. While proponents cite 
largely anecdotal evidence as they lobby to expand the use of 
medicinal pot for a growing number of conditions, many physicians 
warn that there's not nearly enough research to demonstrate 
marijuana's effectiveness for treating sick adults - let alone children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that while research on pot's 
potential therapeutic benefits is scarce, the drug's harmful effects 
on memory, motivation, judgment and motor control are well-known.

Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program 
at Boston Children's Hospital, said using state laws to sidestep 
federal medical regulations is bad public policy.

She said children may be taking something that ends up doing more 
harm than good, particularly for conditions more common than extreme 
forms of epilepsy.

"Failing to develop cannabinoids as medication is a disservice to the 
kids who may benefit from them," she said.

"The answer is better regulation, not less of it."

Marijuana advocates argue that children with debilitating, sometimes 
fatal diseases don't have time to wait for the years it typically 
takes the Food and Drug Administration to approve a new medication.

Many parents say they've already spent years giving their children 
prescription drugs that don't work or have horrible side effects and 
that they deserve access to other treatment options.

Before their struggle to help their son, Nicole and Randy Gross said 
they were the last people to support marijuana use.

Their feelings began to shift when they heard that other children 
with severe epilepsy were finding relief through marijuana.

Chase's parents say that before he started ingesting marijuana, he 
would have hundreds of short seizures each day.

The oily extract they administer their son is low in THC - the 
psychoactive component of marijuana that causes smokers to get 
"stoned"- and high in CBD, or cannabidiol, which has shown promising 
results in animal studies.

That strain of marijuana is known as Charlotte's Web, named after 
5-year-old Charlotte Figi, who gained national attention last year 
when CNN reported that the drug had drastically reduced her severe seizures.

Despite calls for broader legalization, FDA officials say not so 
fast. Spokeswoman Sandy Walsh said in an email that manufacturers and 
researchers must show new drugs to be safe and effective before 
they're marketed in the U.S.

Any efforts to bypass that process "would not serve the interests of 
public health because they might expose patients to unsafe and 
ineffective drug products," she wrote.

Last year the FDA gave approval for five studies of 25 pediatric 
patients with severe epilepsy, each being treated with Epidiolex, a 
raspberry-lime syrup that has CBD but no THC.

The maker of Epidiolex, GW Pharmaceuticals in London, also makes 
Sativex, a THC/CBD mix that has been approved for legal use in 25 
countries, generally for spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients. 
The company plans to seek FDA approval for both drugs.

Illinois, Delaware and Connecticut are the only states whose medical 
marijuana laws do not cover children, said Karen O'Keefe, the 
Marijuana Policy Project's director of state policies.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom