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Scientists working on a new epilepsy drug made from cannabidiol (CBD) say its relationship to cannabis is hindering their progress.
By Admins (from 30/06/2014 @ 04:07:01, in en - Science and Society, read 1332 times)

The push to study cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabis compound, as a treatment for children with severe epilepsy has finally led to clinical trials. Approved by the FDA, the studies will take place at five medical centers across the U.S., including the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

But contrary to earlier reports, researchers say only this month are studies on Epidiolex, a purified form of CBD, actually beginning.

The problem, as UCSF researcher Joseph Sullivan explained to KRCB Radio, is that federal law treats CBD the same way as all forms of marijuana, presenting significant legal barriers to medical research.

"There is no psychoactive or abuse potential of pure cannabidiol, yet it's treated as if it's any other type of marijuana with high THC levels."

Because of this, Sullivan and his colleagues at UCSF had to satisfy strict requirements, such as undergoing extensive background checks and purchasing a $3,000 safe, in order to start testing the drug.

And while medical marijuana advocates have shown support for the development, Dr. Sullivan seems to think researchers would be better off if they hadn't.

"Because of the current political climate – although it is changing – it tarnishes the effort to align it with medical marijuana, as opposed to just saying that this is cannabidiol. I think it's not positioning us well to get this medication out into the appropriate studies, so we understand what role it can play for us."

But considering how long studies on CBD have existed, it's uncertain whether progress would've been made if parents of epileptic children hadn't drawn attention to the issue.

Parents' Push

Since 2012, major media sources such as CNN have reported success stories of parents of severely epileptic children, who found CBD-rich cannabis to be the only treatment that worked.

What's more, according to another member of the UCSF team, Dr. Catherine Jacobson, the company behind Epidiolex hadn't planned on testing the drug for epilepsy in the first place.

It wasn't until a parent contacted GW Pharmaceuticals seeking an alternative to CBD products available at local dispensaries, Dr. Jacobson told Leaf Science, that the company began to consider Epidiolex for treating seizures.

"They got interested in the pediatric epilepsy population because one parent in California got fed up with finding cannabidiol-enriched cannabis from dispensaries. From pot growers. She got fed up because it was impossible to find. It was a very inaccurate method for treating a child with severe seizures."

Before joining the team at UCSF, Dr. Jacobson worked at Stanford University, where she compiled data from parents who had tried CBD-rich marijuana as a treatment for their children.

Published last year, her study showed that most parents (83% of those surveyed) found CBD-rich marijuana effective at reducing seizure frequency, even when other drugs couldn't.

But despite the positive findings, Dr. Jacobson agrees with her colleague's message that more research is needed in order to determine the true promise of CBD.

While she believes CBD will work for some, Dr. Jacobson told KRCB that the "hype" around CBD-rich marijuana may not be accurate, and it's unlikely that cannabidiol can cure all forms of epilepsy.

Source: KRCB via LeafScience

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