It’s the news that many people and parents of children suffering with epilepsy have been waiting to hear: evidence from a recent clinical trial shows strong indication that a new marijuana anti-seizure drug, surpassing traditional prescriptions on efficacy, moves closer to market. Could this be a sign that the U.S. big pharma is more amenable to the medical marijuana mindset? Read on and decide.
Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy Is Prophetic
As individual States stand defiant against federal law regarding the use of cannabis, the practices of marijuana as medication trace back to 3,800 years earlier in Sumerian tables. Indian hemp was also used to treat epilepsy in the 1800s. Then why is it so difficult to get acceptance for cannabis use in the United States?
Red Tape, Market Competition and Money Delay Progress
Capitalism runs deep in pharmaceutical companies and their unspoken yet obvious partnerships with the federal government, often to the detriment of the people they are working toward the betterment of – the sick, tired and weary. As the patients, suffering from epileptic seizures, and their families wait for more clinical trials, evidence-based studies, FDA approvals and insurance companies’ coverage for new treatments, the time and energy spent living with the anguish can be emotionally, physically and financially debilitating. But there’s a bigger picture embedded in the current culture of marijuana that may make the journey for these patients harder than necessary.
Recreational Use of Medical Marijuana Taints Government Sentiment of Benefits
This isn’t anything new. Recreational marijuana users going to doctors with a good enough story to convince them of the need for a medical marijuana use card. Yes, there are people in pain seeking healthier options for medical treatment. My focus here is on those bastardizing a well-intentioned outlet for pain and using it for recreational purposes. In fact, it’s common.
Although medical cannabis has minimal levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) the compound that causes the euphoric high of the drug, dispensaries provide a myriad of strains and strengths, through oils, butters, candied edibles and more. These provide benefits to people who legitimately need relief from pain and illness. There are others who have illegitimately taken advantage of what medical marijuana offers, blurring the line between medication and recreation. This doesn’t help researchers and patients condoning the use of medical marijuana and their fight for government approvals: It diminishes their just cause.
Promising Results Pave the Way for A More Natural Epilepsy Treatment
Evidence-based results through science may be the positive change agent in the current federal classification of medical marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. What researchers from three different clinical trials have found through testing cannabis-based treatments for epileptic seizures, is more than promising, it’s life-changing.
Epidiolex Merges Cannabis and Big Pharma for an Industry First
GW Pharmaceuticals of the U.K. has completed open-label studies in the U.S. for a new drug with a 99 percent formulation of cannabidiol (CBD) the pain relief aspects of marijuana. Known as Epidiolex, it provides consistent amounts of medication with every dose.
Through double-blind placebo studies, participants consisted of children and adults diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and children with Dravet Syndrome, each condition known to generate seizures in those afflicted.
Some of the studies involve patients who did not experience relief from traditional pharmaceutical drugs, while others continued their use of traditional pharmaceutical drugs during the studies.
Overall responsiveness to Epidiolex is varied, depending on the study but nonetheless effective. Success rates show a 40 to 60 percent decrease in seizures.
In addition, researchers in Israel are testing the efficacy of a cannabis-based drug in treating children up to 18 years of age who have Tuberous Sclerosis. The chemical makeup of the drug differs from Epidiolex as the one in this study is comprised of 1-part THC and 20-parts CBD. Thus far, many of the participants are experiencing a reduction in the frequency of seizures.
Side Effects from Epidiolex Use
During the research studies, participants were monitored for potential benefits due to the drug use as well as its risks. Epidiolex, like other pharmaceutical drugs, can cause an increase in the body’s liver enzymes as many drugs can be taxing on the liver.
Additional side effects can include:
- Upset stomach
- Diminished appetite
A difference noted in the side effects is the instance of diarrhea as many pharmaceutical drugs are known to cause constipation – perhaps this is due to the cannabidiol, which is an oil.
Adult Patients and Parents Get Temporary Relief with Compassionate Use Drug
While clinical trials continue, people with epilepsy wait for formal approvals and mainstream distribution of Epidiolex. Until then, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated the drug as allowable through its “compassionate use” exception, available through specific epilepsy centers in the country.
Can One FDA Approval Open the Door to Other Medical Marijuana Use?
For years, the wedge between pharmaceutical companies and holistic practices is well known, often to the harm of the people they are meant to treat – patients. With the introduction of Epidiolex and other cannabis-infused medical treatments, differing opinions about medical marijuana may finally be forced to succumb to a larger truce, putting better patient care, not profits, at the forefront of medicine again.
However, this is still big pharma. Hopefully, they will instill stronger guidelines in pharma-based cannabis. We’re not out of the pharmaceutical opioid crisis yet.
Not Sure If Your Prescription Medication or Marijuana Use Is Out of Control? Ask Us
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Authored by Melanie Stern, Content Director for Scottsdale Recovery Center, Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers and Cohn Media, LLC. Writer and broadcaster covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.