In a groundbreaking statement on Thursday, the Epilepsy Foundation called for increased medical marijuana access and research to treat epilepsy.
“The Epilepsy Foundation supports the right of patients and families living with seizures and epilepsy to access physician directed care, including medical marijuana,” reads the statement, from Philip M. Gattone, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation, and Warren Lammert, chair of the Epilepsy Foundation Board of Directors.
“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,” the strongly worded statement reads.
“The Epilepsy Foundation calls for an end to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) restrictions that limit clinical trials and research into medical marijuana for epilepsy,” the statement reads. “We applaud recent decisions that have allowed trials of Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, to begin in several states.
“Certain components of medical marijuana, including CBD, have shown effectiveness in animal studies, and there have been encouraging anecdotal reports from patients,” the statement reads. “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 believes than an end to seizures should not be determined by one’s zip code,” the strongly worded statement reads. “Our current situation as an epilepsy community is not acceptable. Families looking to access medical marijuana as a treatment are facing terrible decisions. One parent may move across the country to live with a child to seek this treatment. Other families may uproot entirely, including leaving their job, to move where they can access CBD oil.”
The Epilepsy Foundation will be doing the following to support improved access and research into medical marijuana:
1. Calling on the Drug Enforcement Administration to implement a lesser schedule for marijuana so that it can be more easily accessible for medical research.
2. 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.
3. Supporting the inclusion of epilepsy as a condition that uses medical marijuana as a treatment option where it is currently available.
4. Supporting research on multiple forms of cannabis and seizures.
“As parents and as advocates, we feel an urgency to respond and take action on an issue that has been brought to the Epilepsy Foundation from individuals we serve across the country — the use of marijuana to treat epilepsy,” wrote Gattone and Lammert.
Gattone and Lammert pointed out that 2.3 million Americans live with epilepsy, a neurological condition that includes recurring seizures, with more than 1 million of them living with uncontrolled seizures. “Some of these people may be helped by surgery or other non-drug treatments, but for many, no answers have been found yet,” the statement reads. “People with uncontrolled seizures live with the continual risk of serious injuries and loss of life.”
“There is an enormous need for better treatments for children and adults with epilepsy,” said Orrin Devinsky, M.D., professor of neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry and director of the New York University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.
“Trying marijuana or related compounds should be regarded like any other experimental treatment — a shared decision between patient/parent and doctor, that takes into account the severity of the disease, risk and benefits of treatment, and existence of alternate treatment options, all guided by the principle of ‘first do no harm,'” said Dr. Devinsky, who also serves on the Epilepsy Foundation’s Board of Directors.
“Until we have the scientific data, we should make medical marijuana available to physicians who care for people with treatment-resistant epilepsy and their patients,” Dr. Devinsky said.
What Can You Do To Help?
Advocate for increased access and for the freedom to conduct medical research on a potentially effective treatment against seizures and epilepsy. Join with the Epilepsy Foundation at http://capwiz.com/efa/mlm/signup.