Government officials in New South Wales, Australia have finally given hope to a select few children with drug-resistant epilepsy. The condition has only found one treatment that shows significant promise, that of cannabis.
A show of compassion
NSW Premier Mike Baird pushed for the access to cannabis-based medicines after speaking with families.
I have spoken to some of those parents; I’ve been moved by their tears. I just can’t imagine what it would be like to stand there, to be there, to look at your children suffering and continuing to suffer.
Sometimes you can provide hope and today is one of those days.
Why so few?
While Baird is apparently touched with the need to provide hope, the NSW government is doing so sparingly. Only 40 children, those with the most severe cases, are being allowed the plant-based medicine Epidiolex.
Epidiolex has already seen amazing results in trials in the UK. The “drug” is as simple as a cannabis oil compromised of pure CBD. What sets Epidiolex apart from the kind of oils you might find in a dispensary in a legal state boils down to one simple point.
It costs far more. It is made by a huge pharmaceutical company. Of course, the treatment will cost more.
This is unique
There are medical trials for cannabis starting in NSW later this year, but this compassionate access measure is not part of that. This is simply to help those children and their families that the government deems worthy and needing of access right now.
Not everyone thinks that the government is being as gracious as they could be. Dr. John Lawson from Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick wishes it was a more significant access plan.
Hopefully we will have hundreds involved in the next 12 months [in the trials].
The children will be given the cannabis-based medicine for a 12 week period and monitored for signs of improvement.
Dr. Lawson may wish there were more children given access, but he also has a cautious approach. When it comes to Dravet’s Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy, there is no treatment currently available. Hope can be a dangerous thing, and miracles cannot come with guarantees, but cannabis has shown that it works where no other medicine will.
This is not a miracle for everyone. Maybe one in 10 will have a very good response and maybe one in three will have a good response. But this is in a group where there has been no hope.
Dr. Lawson might be understating it a bit. Although the Phase 3 trial showed 39% of patients with a significant reduction in their seizures, CBD oil in the Unites States has seen far greater results. Epidiolex will save lives, there is no doubt. But when medical cannabis is widely available, it will save far more.
Do you think that this tiptoe approach is the safest, or is the wait only costing more lives from delay? Share your thoughts with us on social media or in the comments below.