Four Idaho Kids With Epilepsy Approved For Pot-Derived Drug

By McCarton Ackerman 01/20/16

Despite taking a tiny step in the right direction, Idaho needs to expand access to many more kids.

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Four children who suffer from severe epilepsy have finally been approved to treat their life-threatening condition with a drug derived from marijuana.

Idaho lawmakers confirmed Monday that the children were now taking the drug Epidiolex under a highly limited state program. State Gov. Butch Otter issued an executive order last April for an “expanded access” program to use Epidiolex on kids who have severe seizure disorders. Epidiolex is a purified oil made from the marijuana plant, but doesn’t contain any THC.

Elke Shaw-Tulloch said that Idaho has been awarded 25 slots in the expanded access program, which allows drugs currently in clinical trials to be dispensed to others not in the trials on a limited basis. However, the program is using extremely strict criteria to determine who is eligible. Any child approved to use Epidiolex has to have tried four different classes of epilepsy medication without success. And with some state estimates showing as many as 1,500 kids in Idaho needing the treatment, some believe 25 spots simply isn’t enough.

“It’s frustrating for me that as a state, we have narrowed the options down for the kids and the parents,” said Sen. Shawn Keough, co-chair of the joint budget committee. “I would guess that some of those parents are desperate to help their children, and will find the substance in another manner. If the goal is to keep this above-board, then we’re certainly not helping that. Shaw-Tulloch vowed that the state will ask for more slots if there’s more demand than the current allotted 25 spaces can fill."

Otter had previously vetoed legislation that would have allowed kids with severe seizure disorders to use cannabidiol, a low-THC oil extracted from cannabis. The measure had passed both houses, but the governor felt allowing its use was a slippery slope to the full legalization of medical marijuana.

Idaho is the only state among its bordering neighbors to completely ban marijuana in any medical or recreational form. Wyoming and Utah both allow supervised use of cannabidiol oil to treat severe seizure disorders. Nevada has legalized medical marijuana, while Oregon and Washington have both legalized pot for medical and recreational use.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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