Recently, the National Epilepsy Foundation issued a statement demanding federal and state governments to stop interfering with life-saving medical marijuana research and start providing patients with more access.
“The Epilepsy Foundation supports the rights of patients and families living with seizures and epilepsy to access physician directed care, including medical marijuana,” writes Philip M. Gattone, President & CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation, and Warren Lammert, Chair for the Epilepsy Foundation Board of Directors.
“Nothing should stand in the way of patients gaining access to potentially life-saving treatment,” the statement continues. “If a patient and their healthcare professionals feel that the potential benefits of medical marijuana for uncontrolled epilepsy outweigh the risks, then families need to have that legal option now — not in five years or 10 years. For people living with severe uncontrolled epilepsy, time is not on their side.”
Epilepsy is a neurological condition, which causes recurring seizures that affect the lives of 2.3 million Americans. Over one million patients suffering from this debilitating disease are inflicted with uncontrollable seizures. For these people, seizures often carry the risk of serious injury or even death, according to the statement.
A specific compound in marijuana — cannabidiol or CBD — has been receiving a lot of attention from the medical community for its ability to control seizures. “Charlotte’s Web,” a high-CBD strain of marijuana oil with no psychoactive effects, is now being given to children in states where medical marijuana is permitted.
Although the Foundation admits they are pleased by the recent decisions of select states to begin clinical trials of cannabidiol oil, they believe there has to be a serious amendment to the federal laws before any real medical advancements can be made.
“Certain components of medical marijuana, including CBD, have shown effectiveness in animal studies, and there have been encouraging anecdotal reports from patients,” says the Foundation’s statement. ”But further research and unbiased clinical trials are needed to establish whether and in what forms medical marijuana is or is not effective and safe. Restrictions on the use of medical marijuana continue to stand in the way of this research.”
The Epilepsy Foundation says that they will be “calling on the Drug Enforcement Administration to implement a lesser schedule for marijuana so that it can be easily accessible for medical research,” as well as, “Supporting appropriate changes to state laws to increase access to medical marijuana as a treatment option for epilepsy, including pediatric use as supported by a treating physician; supporting the inclusion of epilepsy as a condition that uses medical marijuana as a treatment option where it is currently available; supporting research on multiple forms of cannabis and seizures.”
Accompanying commentary from Epilepsy Foundation board member Dr. Orrin Devinsky, Professor of Neurology & Psychiatry and Director of the New York University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center offers some closing insight:
“We stand at an unusual inflection point where families are demanding access to a medication that may or may not be beneficial, and for which the side effects may be less than many medications prescribed by doctors; the medical community lacks convincing efficacy or safety data for children with epilepsy; and the Drug Enforcement Agency’s overly conservative scheduling of marijuana hamstrings research and access. Yet there should be caution for both expectations and potential side effects. Humility is essential in trying to understand something for which we lack solid evidence. Both doctors and patients are equally biased and the greater the expectation, the greater the potential for bias. We urgently need data from randomized controlled trials where the biases of companies, doctors, patients, and parents are meticulously removed.”