Pubdate: Fri, 01 Aug 2014
Source: Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Copyright: 2014 Sun-Sentinel Company
Author: Marie French, Bloomberg News
Page: 14A


April Sintz is fighting to loosen marijuana laws for her 7-year-old
epileptic son. She is one of hundreds of moms nationwide who have
opened a new front in the drive to expand the drug's legal use.

While supplying pot to a child is bound to raise eyebrows, Sintz said
early evidence on the marijuana extract cannabidiol, also known as
CBD, suggests it's a potent anticonvulsant with few dangerous side
effects. That could help save the life of her son, Isaac, who has 30
seizures or so a day and suffers with kidney damage from his present
treatments, she said.

"We're probably going to lose our son to his kidneys or his seizures,"
said Sintz, of South Jordan, Utah, near Salt Lake City. "We can't find
a medication to safely control those seizures, which is why we're so
excited for this oil."

So far, the oil hasn't been tested in large randomized trials that
could prove its safety and efficacy.

The most recent data came on June17, when researchers reported that a
purified form of CBD made by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British-based
developer of drugs derived from cannabis plants, reduced seizure
frequency by at least 50 percent over 12 weeks in 27 patients. The
average age of the participants was 10, and all had failed on other
treatments. Only mild or moderate side effects, including sleepiness,
were recorded.

Larger trials are scheduled ahead.

Utah's health department last week began issuing registration cards,
and Sintz said in a telephone interview that she's planning to get one
for her son within the week so the family can legally possess and
treat Isaac.

Initially, "we were known as the marijuana moms, which we are not
obviously," Sintz said about the process of getting a bill through the
state legislature. "But as soon as they sat down with us and heard
about our children and what we're going through on a daily basis, they
changed their tune."

The parents say that the CBD extract doesn't carry pot's ability to
leave users stoned, and can be a safer alternative to the 20 or so
standard, U.S.-approved drugs for epilepsy that carry side effects
that range from drowsiness, nausea and weight changes to dangerous
brain and kidney damage.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the drug fast
track status for two epilepsy diagnoses, a designation that help
expedite development and the agency's review of medicines to treat
serious conditions.

Elizabeth Thiele, director of the pediatric epilepsy service at
Massachusetts General Hospital, said it's important to get those
results since no other research at this point goes to CBD's long-term

"My gut is that CBD is going to be pretty safe, but it would be nice
to know that," Thiele said in a telephone interview. "I don't
personally think that there's enough data for me to start prescribing
medical marijuana to people."

Maria La France of Des Moines, Iowa, whose 12- year-old son, Quincy,
also has epilepsy, said drugs used to control his seizures left him
with brain damage.

"How ironic that the federal government is so concerned about cannabis
when these FDA-approved drugs have caused so much damage to my son,"
France said.
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