Pubdate: Fri, 18 Sep 2015
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2015 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Sheryl Ubelacker
Page: L7


Girl's Seizures Had Improved With Cannabis Extract, Prompting Mom to 
Seek Help at Ontario Clinic

An Alberta mother whose daughter has severe epilepsy has travelled to 
Ontario for a medical marijuana prescription after the girl's doctor 
said he was no longer allowed to provide permission to purchase the product.

In 2013, Sarah Wilkinson had started extracting cannabis oil from 
dried marijuana - purchased from a licensed grower with a 
prescription from a neurologist at Alberta Children's Hospital - to 
prevent life- threatening seizures in her eight-year-old daughter, Mia.

But in July, the physician declined to renew the prescription because 
of a hospital policy based on the position of Alberta Health 
Services, the provincial health authority, which does not support the 
use of medical marijuana for pediatric patients with epilepsy.

Wilkinson said the cannabis oil is the only therapy that has worked 
to stop Mia's seizures, caused by a rare type of epilepsy called 
Ohtahara syndrome. Despite taking 30 to 40 anti-convulsive pills 
daily, Mia would suffer up to 100 seizures a day, her mother said. 
But since starting daily doses of oral cannabis oil 19 months ago, 
Mia has not had a single seizure.

On Monday, Mia was seen by a doctor at Canadian Cannabis Clinics in 
St. Catharines, Ont., and left with a prescription for dried 
marijuana, which her mother can fill from a federally licensed 
producer after returning to their Airdrie, Alta., home.

"It's a big relief. I don't have to worry about when I run out of her 
meds," said her mother, who had been concerned about her dwindling 
supply of medical-grade marijuana purchased with the initial 
prescription. Wilkinson said she turned to cannabis because nothing 
else was helping her child, whose seizures could be so severe she 
would stop breathing and have to be resuscitated and rushed to hospital.

"I really took a big leap of faith with that," she said of the 
cannabis oil, adding that within 24 hours of the first dose, Mia's 
seizures had completely stopped.

Without the treatment, "we would have waited for the next big seizure 
and she would have died. There's not a really nice way to say that. 
"Now, we can all breathe." For Mia, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, 
appears to be the ingredient in marijuana that controls her seizures, 
while others with different forms of epilepsy benefit from another 
component of the plant called cannabidiol, or CBD.

Pharmacologist-toxicologist McIntyre Burnham, co-director of the 
Epilepsy Research Program of the Ontario Brain Institute in Toronto, 
said about 30 per cent of people with seizures don't respond to any 
anti-convulsive medications. His program plans to seek Health Canada 
approval for a clinical trial in adults of a cannabidiol in capsule 
form being developed by Canadian medical marijuana producer Tilray, 
which he hopes will start in about a year.

While THC does stop seizures in some people, it's also the active 
ingredient in marijuana that "makes you high," said Burnham, whereas 
CBD does not.

Researchers agree clinical trials are needed to determine whether the 
various strains and extracts of marijuana can benefit patients with a 
variety of conditions, and cannabidiol appears "quite promising" for 
epilepsy, he said.

But "people are thinking it's a wonder drug. I think it's too early 
to say that. ... It will help some people and not help others."

Kunvar Mudhar does believe CBD is a wonder drug.

A year ago, she started giving cannabis oil high in CBD to her son 
Zen, who has intractable epilepsy related to cerebral palsy that is 
resistant to all anti-convulsive medications.

As a baby he had been put on a special diet, which reduced the number 
and severity of his seizures - but he was still experiencing about 150 a day.

"The first night I gave him the first dose, we started off very low," 
said Mudhar of Mississauga, who makes cannabis oil from dried 
marijuana purchased through a doctor's prescription. Within a day, 
the number of Zen's seizures dropped to about 30, and with a slight 
increase in the dose, they disappeared for months.

Mudhar said she would have been happy if the cannabis oil had just 
reduced his seizures by a significant amount. "But this is amazing. 
To me, this is more than a miracle that Zen has seizure free days."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom