National Epilepsy Foundation Calls for Increased Access to Medical MarijuanaBy Thomas H. Clarke February 22, 2014
"If an epilepsy patient and their doctor feel that marijuana is their best treatment option then they need to have safe, legal access to medical marijuana and they need that access now," the National Epilepsy Foundation says, calling on the DEA to allow research and clinical trials
WASHINGTON, DC — Citing the injustice that patients in many states are being denied treatment that is available to patients in others, the National Epilepsy Foundation called on federal and state governments this week to increase medical marijuana access and research.
“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, Epilepsy Foundation, and Warren Lammert, Chair, Epilepsy Foundation Board of Directors, in a statement issued Thursday.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that includes recurring seizures, and affects an estimated 2.3 million Americans. Over 1 million epilepsy patents live with uncontrolled seizures, which can cause serious injuries and sometimes even death.
Medical marijuana, specifically cannabidiol or CBD oil, has been gaining acceptance as an effective treatment in controlling seizures, especially among children, in states where it is authorized. High in CBD and low in THC, cannabidiol has been reported to cause a dramatic reduction in some patients’ seizures and eliminate their need for seizure medications.
Two limited clinical trials have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assess the efficacy of cannabidiol in treating pediatric epilepsy, but the Foundation says that is not enough.
“Nothing should stand in the way of patients gaining access to potentially life-saving treatment,” the Foundation says. “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 ten years. For people living with severe uncontrolled epilepsy, time is not on their side.”
In addition to calling for increased access to medical marijuana for epilepsy patients nationwide, the National Epilepsy Foundation also called on the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to end restrictions that limit clinical trials and research on treating epilepsy with medical marijuana.
“Certain components of medical marijuana, including CBD, have shown effectiveness in animal studies, and there have been encouraging anecdotal reports from patients,” the Foundation says. “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.”
“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,” says Dr. Orrin Devinsky, M.D., Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, and Director of the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. “We urgently need data from randomized controlled trials where the biases of companies, doctors, patients, and parents are meticulously removed.”
The Epilepsy Foundation will be doing the following to support improved access and research into medical marijuana:
- Calling on the Drug Enforcement Administration to implement a lesser schedule for marijuana so that it can be more easily accessible for medical research.
- 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.