Epilepsy and synthetic cannabis: Australia doctors to conduct medical trial on children with severe epilepsy

By @ritwikroy1985 on
Synthetic Cannabis
Packets of synthetic marijuana illegally sold in New York City are put on display at a news conference held by New York state Senator Jeff Klein in New York, August 12, 2015. Reuters/Sebastien Malo

Recently, it was reported that a 43-year-old Utah, US, mum gives two drops of cannabis oil a day to treat and lessen the pain of her severely disabled three-year-old daughter. She even rallies for medical marijuana legalisation in Utah. Now, doctors at Melbourne’s Austin Health will start a medical trial where they will use synthetic cannabis to treat children with severe epilepsy.

According to Sky News, a small group of 10 Victorian children will try synthetic cannabis as part of an international clinical trial for understanding the effects of synthetic cannabis on severe epilepsy in children. By the end of the year, the study will be expanded to include 60 children. Austin health director Ingrid Scheffer says that the study is a first in Australia.

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The synthetic cannabis-based drug has been developed by US pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics Inc. The drug is believed to be highly effective in helping children with refractory epilepsy. It is made from a synthetic version of a therapeutic compound found in the cannabis plant, called cannabidiol.

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“What we need is definite answers. I hope it works and I hope it will help lots of the children I look after with severe epilepsy,” said Scheffer.

The trial will have some patients take synthetic cannabidiol and others placebo. After three months, all the patients will be given the drug. The data will be analysed to find out if the drug makes any difference. The use of synthetic cannabis will ensure that researchers are certain about what the patients are taking, writes the ABC.

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Scheffer said that cannabis has THC and cannabidiol. THC makes people high when taken. As this medical trial does not involve THC, she considers this trial safe as only synthetic cannabidiol will be used.

Premier Daniel Andrews said that the Victorian Government will be providing $150,000 to the trial. Victoria is also joining a NSW-led trial into medical cannabis. It is supposed to begin 2016 end. The purpose of the trial will be to explore cannabis and cannabis-based products use in providing relief to extremely ill patients.

The state government is hoping for a series of cannabis cultivation trials to begin if and only if the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2015 is passed early 2016.

“(Medicinal cannabis) can potentially provide enormous benefits ... to the quality of life of children that suffer from very severe forms of a whole range of different neurological conditions,” Andrews said.

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