Pubdate: Thu, 02 Feb 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Claire Theobald
Page: A3


As desperate parents of children with severe epilepsy turn to
alternative therapies, researchers are launching a study examining the
efficacy and safety of treating seizures with medical marijuana products.

"Parents are becoming more aware of the use of cannabis to treat
epilepsy from social media and parent support groups," said Richard
Tang-Wai, a pediatric epileptologist at the University of Alberta.

"Because there is little scientific evidence regarding the use of
cannabis products in children, most physicians are reluctant to
prescribe them, resulting in parents trying to make their own
preparations at home or turning to suppliers who cannot verify the
quality of their product. This adds to the urgency of doing studies
like this."

Tang-Wai is partnering with Richard Huntsman, a pediatric neurologist
at the University of Saskatchewan, to lead a study to determine how
cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound found in marijuana, could
change the quality of life for children suffering from severe epilepsy
and what interactions CBD oils could have with other approved
treatments for epilepsy.

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, University of Alberta,
the University of British Columbia, McGill University and the
Universite de Montreal are recruiting 30 children up to age 10 who
suffer from epilepsy severe enough to cause cognitive impairment that
can't be controlled with existing medical treatments.

"Many of these children have adverse reactions to any of the
treatments that we offer and they suffer significant side effects from
them," Huntsman said. "I believe we owe it to these children and their
families to look at all potential treatment options, including
cannabis-based products, if they can offer any hope of helping."

Tang-Wai said he knows some of his patients' parents are already
turning to unapproved CBD treatments to ease their child's symptoms
when approved therapies fail.

"These are good parents, but they have children with hard-to-control
epilepsy," said Tang-Wai. "They were desperate."

While controversial, Tang-Wai said there has been some evidence in
animal studies that suggests CBD could have some positive effect on
epileptic seizures and anecdotal evidence from small studies
suggesting children suffering multiple seizures a day could benefit
from CBD therapies. But there is little quality data available on
appropriate doses, potential side effects or interactions with other

As researchers learned as they tried to secure a supply of oil with
consistently high levels of CBD and low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol,
or THC - the cannabis compound that makes recreational users high -
suitable for a clinical trial, CBD products from growers may not be
manufactured to a pharmaceutical standard, making doses

Tang-Wai is hoping this study will put scientific evidence behind
anecdotal claims of benefits of treating children with epilepsy with
CBD and establish what doses might be safe or appropriate as they
continue their search for ways to improve the quality of life for
children with severe epilepsy.
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