Pubdate: Mon, 05 Jan 2015
Source: Detroit News (MI)
Copyright: 2015 Associated Press
Author: Carla K. Johnson, Associated Press


Families Say It Works for Epileptic Seizures; Doctors Still Skeptical

Chicago (AP) - Randy Gross hopes a new law allowing children into 
Illinois' medical marijuana program will reunite his family, nearly a 
year after his wife moved to Colorado so their son could receive a 
controversial treatment to ease his epileptic seizures.

Gross lives and works in Illinois. His wife, Nicole, moved with their 
two sons so their 8-year-old could legally swallow a quarter-teaspoon 
of marijuana oil each day. While the medical evidence is thin, some 
parents - including the Grosses - say marijuana works for their 
children and they're willing to experiment.

"We can tell he's feeling better," Nicole Gross said of their son, 
Chase, who also has autism and uses sign language. "He puts four or 
five signs together. He'll sign, ' brother go downstairs play.' ... 
He engages more, makes better eye contact. If he notices something 
funny on his TV show, he'll clap and pat you on the back."

The boy formerly suffered abrupt "head drop" seizures - at least one 
every two minutes, she said. Now 20 minutes go by, sometimes 30 
minutes, between seizures, she said.

The dark green, pungent oil comes from a hybrid marijuana strain 
called Charlotte's Web, which was cultivated by a Colorado company to 
be heavy in a compound called CBD and low in THC, the ingredient that 
gets people high. It hasn't been tested in clinical trials for 
effectiveness or safety, but it will be legal in Illinois under a law 
that took effect Thursday.

Sorting truth from hype is difficult. CBD shows enough promise that 
two drug companies are studying it for childhood seizures with 
support from U.S. regulators, but those results will take years. For 
now, mainstream medicine regards Charlotte's Web as a folk remedy 
deserving of caution.

"There is good evidence of long-term harm of chronic marijuana use on 
the developing brain under 18 years of age," said Dr. Leslie Mendoza 
Temple, a suburban Chicago doctor who has given accredited lectures 
about medical marijuana for the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians.

She considers the scientific evidence sparse, so "in general, this is 
a medicine only to be considered when all other therapies have been 
exhausted and failed, and if the child is quite debilitated."

A wave of Charlotte's Web publicity, sparked by a 2013 CNN 
documentary, lured families to Colorado and unfairly played on their 
desperation, said Dr. Kevin Chapman, who treats children with 
epilepsy at Children's Hospital Colorado. Chapman has seen only 
inconsistent parent accounts that Charlotte's Web works.

When he and his colleagues reviewed the charts of 58 young patients 
using the oil, they found less than a third of parents reported a big 
reduction in seizures, and the improvement didn't show up on 
available before-and-after tests that measure brain waves. Families 
who moved to Colorado to use the drug, however, were three times more 
likely to report improvement than families already living in the state.

"It's hard to be truly objective if you've had to do so much to get 
this drug that's been touted as a miracle medication," Chapman.

Under emergency rules, the Illinois Department of Public Health 
announced in December, young patients will be able to use medical 
marijuana for any of the nearly 40 health conditions already 
authorized for adults, although some - like agitation of Alzheimer's 
disease - aren't childhood conditions.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom