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Marijuana-Based Drug Could Help Kids Suffering From Epilepsy

Epidiolex has shown great promise in early testing, though both the stigma and the high cost might mean a commercial drug is still years away.

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By McCarton Ackerman

05/20/14

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A new marijuana-based drug could provide much needed relief to children suffering from severe epilepsy, but still needs to be approved for trial use.

Researchers at Edinburgh University in Scotland have created the drug called Epidiolex, which has reportedly allowed for marked improvement for kids suffering from epilepsy in initial testing. If approved, an initial trial will involve 60 children in both Edinburgh and London who will be given small doses of the drug twice a day.

But even though the chemical component that gives marijuana users a high has been removed from Epidiolex, the stigma associated with pot could lead to difficulty in being approved. “Marijuana has stigma associated with it. This makes it more challenging to develop treatments, but there is precedence for this type of process,” said Dr. Richard Chin, a consultant pediatric neurologist at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh. “We use lignocaine and lidocaine as a local anesthetic and this is related to cocaine,” Chin told RIA Novosti. “We use codeine for pain relief but this is related to opium.”

For doctors and researchers stateside, it could take years before research involving the use of marijuana oil to treat kids suffering from seizures can be approved. And even if it is approved, the trials could cost upwards of $10,000 per patient and be too financially prohibitive for most families.

"I still have patients that are talking about moving to Colorado, where marijuana is legal, because they understand it's going to be a while before this is up and running," said University of Louisville professor Dr. Karen Skjei, who specializes in pediatric epilepsy. “[Kids] can be so incredibly debilitated by their seizures...and sometimes these kids don't even make it into adulthood...We are seeing the sickest of the sickest on the pediatric front lines."

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