Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pediatric cannabis medicine

Jonathan Berr on MSN Money reports on a new twist in the medical marijuana debate - cannabis as pediatric medication:

As more states allow seriously ill people to legally obtain marijuana, a new question is coming up: Should children also be allowed access to the substance, which is officially still illegal under federal law?

The issue has come to a head in New Jersey, where Meghan and Brian Wilson are trying to get medical marijuana treatment for their 2-year-old Vivian (pictured), who's afflicted with a rare, debilitating form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. The Wilsons are pushing state legislators to pass a law making it easier for minors to get that access. They're being opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics' New Jersey chapter and a skeptical Gov. Chris Christie.

"According to current state law, any doctor who wants to prescribe medical marijuana to a child must have a pediatrician and a psychiatrist vet his decision," according to New Jersey Spotlight. "That's a particularly daunting challenge in New Jersey, where only two pediatricians have registered with the state's nascent medical marijuana program."

The American Academy of Pediatrics argues that scant scientific data are available on marijuana's effectiveness, an argument that advocates dispute. And NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws) points out that very few children currently are given legal access to the drug in states where it is allowed.

"The reality is that various substances commonly prescribed to adolescents (e.g., Ritalin) in the marketplace were never clinically tested on young adult subjects and the long-term effects of these substances on young adult users is largely unknown," writes NORML deputy director Paul Armentato, in an email to MSN moneyNOW. By comparison, he notes, "well over 22,000 papers on marijuana appear in the peer-reviewed literature."

New Jersey has among the strictest medical marijuana laws in the country, if not the strictest, because Christie, a former U.S. Attorney, was afraid it was going to be abused by "potheads." Any doctor who wants to prescribe medical marijuana to a child must have a pediatrician and a psychiatrist vet that decision, requirements that some see as overly burdensome. A bill pending in the legislature would treat children the same as adults.

Patients with epilepsy, such as "Vivie" Wilson, are entitled to get cannabis legally. But as the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, New Jersey's one legal dispensary restricts sales to residents in the Northern part of the state. The toddler lives in the central part.

The Wilsons told the newspaper they wouldn't allow Vivie to smoke the cannabis. Instead, they would give it to her as an extract that can be put into food. Such a formulation is available in Colorado and California, according to the Inquirer.

Marijuana has reduced the duration and intensity of the seizures suffered by 14-year-old Jackson Stormes after more conventional therapies such as brain surgery failed, according to New Jersey Spotlight. He has developmental problems and can't speak.

If more children can get access to medical marijuana, it could open a new market for the growing industry, which one forecast estimates will top $3 billion in 2014, double what it is today.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.


Carlos said...

Hemp is a good medicine, but the powers that be wanna sell children lots of meds...Hell has the children. Time for a sensible change here so we can afford good medicine and not get our kids hooked on presciption garbage.

Don Anser said...

That prescription garbage is turning a whole generation into zombies and a few doctors into millionaires.