Below is the Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia’s official statement regarding medical marijuana.
The Epilepsy Foundation supports the rights of patients and families living with seizures and epilepsy to access physician directed care, including medical marijuana. Nothing should stand in the way of patients gaining access to potentially life-saving treatment. If a patient and their healthcare professional 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 ten years. For people living with severe uncontrolled epilepsy, time is not on their side. This is a very important, difficult and personal decision that should be made by a patient and family working with their healthcare team.
Treatments for epilepsy with any form of marijuana come with risks, as there is much that is not known about its effects. The consistency of available formulations also needs to be addressed. Caution is appropriate, and we strongly recommend that patients with uncontrolled seizures seek out an epilepsy specialist. However, existing therapies have real side-effects both known and unknown, and just as there are risks with any treatment, every day without seizure control is a risk to life. Every seizure is a possible opportunity lost to love, live, learn and grow.
The Epilepsy Foundation calls for an end to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) restrictions that limit clinical trials and research into medical marijuana for epilepsy. We applaud recent decisions that have allowed clinical 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. 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 that an end to seizures should not be determined by one’s zip code. 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 treatment. Other families may uproot entirely, including leaving their job, to move where they can access CBD oil. In the past, when therapies not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were available abroad and left only to those who could afford to travel, we fought for compassionate access. We are here to continue the fight.
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 lessor 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.
The Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia has been fortunate to work together with a Professional Advisory Board made up of local, state, and national leaders in epilepsy. We respect the position and guidance of our Professional Advisory Board and wish to provide their perspective on this important issue. We believe those we are privileged to serve should be equipped with the very best knowledge possible and deserve to have the perspective of both our leadership in advocacy as well as our leadership in medicine.
The Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia’s Professional Advisory Board statement is below:
The Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia’s Professional Advisory Board recognizes the need for additional safe and efficacious therapies for the treatment of epilepsy. We support the evaluation of such treatments in a scientific manner that establishes that safety and efficacy. As of this time, despite predominantly anecdotal case reports, there is too little data to support such safety and efficacy of the routine use of marijuana and/or its extracts for such treatment.
The Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia’s Professional Advisory Board supports legislation that would legalize marijuana and/or its extracts in so far as it would then allow the thorough scientific evaluation of these substances in Institution Review Board approved controlled clinical trials to evaluate safety and efficacy. Only then could there be a decision made about the utility of such treatments in the management of various epilepsy conditions. We support legislation that limits availability to clinical research at this time.