On one side of the debate Wednesday stood families of children suffering seizures, who said their kids’ health depended on access to Cannabidiol (CBD)
Article by Brian Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser
Dustin Chandler, whose daughter Carly gave her name to a 2014 law authorizing a UAB study of cannabidiol (CBD), said the drug had stopped her from having 200 to 300 seizures a day – many “turning her blue as a blueberry” — and allowed her cognitive development. He asked the House Judiciary Committee to vote for a law that would expand access to the drug beyond those like Carly who managed to get into the UAB study.
“I urge you to truly sit down and look at this and get all suffering people in Alabama and these children and their families to get the help they need now, and to allow the research component to go on at the same time,” he said.
On the other stood law enforcement and physicians, sympathetic to the families’ plight but saying they needed to address the potential legal and medical problems that expanded CBD access could bring.
Dr. Shannon Murphy, speaking for the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, said the safety and usefulness of many brands of CBD was an open question.
“This bill does not prioritize patient health and safety,” Murphy said. “Pharmaceutical-grade medicine is regulated for potency and consistency and backed by clinical trials showing efficacy and side effects to determine if treatment with benefits and risks are appropriate to a patient and their condition.”
Cannabidiol comes from the marijuana plant but contains little or no THC, the chemical in the plant that creates highs. Early results released earlier this month from the ongoing UAB study showed half of those in the study saw improved control over seizures, with 32 to 45 percent reporting a reduction in seizures, depending on the dose.
Not all those who wanted to try the CBD oil could get into the UAB study. Under the legislation sponsored by Rep. Mike Ball, R-Huntsville, individuals with a valid prescription for CBD would be able to use that as an affirmative defense against charges.
Ball called access a “serious issue,” saying some families had seen deaths while waiting for CBD to become available.
“As I became acquainted with these families, these folks, I became quite aware of the sense of urgency that we do something,” he said.
The bill got its name Leni Young, a child who suffered a prenatal stroke and suffered from hundreds of seizures a day beginning at seven months old. Young was unable to get into the UAB study, due to requirements on the number of anti-seizure drugs a subject takes. Her parents, Amy and Wayne Young, moved to Oregon to gain access to CBD and say Leni, now four, has shown significant improvement since beginning the treatment.
“Our daughter is living proof this works, and that having free, unencumbered access is the ticket to making this work,” Wayne Young told the committee via Skype on Wednesday.
Opponents of the legislation said they wanted to help the families and did not necessarily object to CBD in itself. But Attorney General Luther Strange said the UAB study should continue to determine the results, and said law enforcement officers would have a difficult time determining what a legal quantity of CBD was. Strange suggested the formation of a task force with families, physicians and UAB members to make recommendations on the subject.
“There’s no one in this room that doesn’t sympathize with these families or the challenges they have,” Strange said. “We don’t want anyone to think we’re not in favor of solving (the problem) 100 percent.”
A clinical study of pharmaceutical-grade CBD, called Epidiolex, has shown a significant reduction in seizures among those unable to get treatment elsewhere and was generally “well-tolerated,” according to a report in The New York Times. Murphy said the study was “incredibly exciting,” but that further analysis should be done.
“Every compound’s efficacy and side effects are required to be clearly elucidated before we mass market them to the public as a medicine,” she said.
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