The results of the first clinical study approved by the FDA, testing the use of cannabinoids in epileptics were recently released, contributing to what could and should be a very beneficial change in the treatment of those suffering from seizures. The study, Epidiolex Treatment Effect in Children and Young Adults with Treatment Resistant Epilepsy, was conducted across the nation at various medical facilities. Epidiolex is a purified 98% oil-based cannabidiol extract manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, who also funded the trials. GW Pharmaceuticals is, “a biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing and commercializing novel therapeutics from its proprietary cannabinoid product platform.”
The medication can be taken orally as a suspension and through a feeding tube, for those that require it. After the success of numerous studies conducted testing animals, which are known as preclinical studies, it was evident that it was time to begin determining whether or not the drug would have the same results in treating humans with epilepsy. Of all studies that have been done on marijuana and epilepsy, this was the largest. The study was facilitated at 16 epilepsy sites and consisted of 313 patients. Epidiolex is the first cannabidiol drug of its kind. The study consisted of patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome, Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, Aicardi syndrome, Doose syndrome and many other rare and severe types of epilepsies.
For years parents of children with epilepsy have been fighting for access to a medication they knew could have tremendous impacts. However, cannabis is still illegal by federal law. The plant is classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. Other drugs included in this scheduling including heroine. A drug is considered Schedule I when it is determined to be potentially highly addictive, with no legitimate medical use. In addition, the possession of cannabinoid drugs, though legal by the state in which they are prescribed, is unlawful. This is an issue that induces skepticism and hesitance in those seeking treatment, or considering performing research for ailments that could be bettered by the administering of cannabis based medications and products. Even if a patient is prescribed any cannabis based medications, there is only a small range of them that have been FDA approved. It is only right and fair to allow these people legal access to these remedies or the further development of them. To keep those suffering from such misfortunes, whilst there sits a suitable solution or therapy, inaccessible by law, is unjust. Some of these people watch their children and patients endure seizures so often that it consumes their lives. About a week ago, I attended an event, during which the attendees introduced themselves aloud to the group. From the speaker, I heard a woman introduce herself, her husband and her son, stating that they were there in hopes to learn more about treating their sons’ illness with marijuana, because they knew of the positive results it brought for others. When they passed my, later, I saw their son, about 10, who must have been the boy they were talking about, and the stroller they were pushing. As I approached the table to speak with them at the end of the night, I took notice of a pencil box on the table, and as I grew closer, it came to my realization that it contained many syringes, one of which the mother was preparing to administer to the son she had mentioned earlier. A strong respect began to swell within me. This respect only grew as we conversed further. I came to realize that it was actually the baby boy in the stroller that would be receiving the medication in the syringe. At this moment, what I felt inside made me truly realize the importance of allowing epileptics access to cannabinoid medicines. These families fight the pain together, and want the best for their little ones. Giving a shot to your baby hurts just as badly as it hurts the baby receiving it, but in a different way.
For some of these children, treatments they are already being administered fail to keep their seizures under control. Epidiolex is a medication that can be given without inflicting pain upon the patient, with the promise of improving their seizures and their quality of life. It was found that Epidiolex reduced the frequency of seizures in most subjects and a complete discontinuance of seizures in some others. Of the 313 in the study, 261 patients participated in the study to receive treatment for three months. Almost half of these patients saw up to a 50% reduction in the occurrence of convulsive seizures. 9% of patients were seizure free upon the conclusion of the 12 weeks. Very few, if any side effects were reported.
It has been proven time and time again that cannabis does have medical uses that are beneficial to those who use them for treatment of epilepsy. To allow these patients legal access to the medication they need, the U.S. government must take action and change the laws against marijuana. Marijuana must be completely removed from scheduling, or at least when being used for medicinal purposes on the federal level. People do not deserve to suffer from convulsive seizures that could be positively altered or diminished using cannabis treatment. Epidiolex, and drugs like it have the potential to change the lives of people in pain, whether it be emotional or physical. This is a big step in the progress of legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana. GW Pharmaceuticals has developed a remedy that will affect many people in a way that will help them begin to live a little easier. For some with Treatment Resistant Epilepsies, it will completely stop their seizures. With all of the success that has come from studies, both clinical, and preclinical, it is due time to do away with holding marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. It is time to free epileptics from the burdens of their disorder.