'He deserves a fighting chance.' Family pushes more cannabis drug research to help son.
Families desperate for new treatments are now hopeful the government will open the door to more medical marijuana research. Last week the Food and Drug Administration approved the first cannabis based drug. CBD oil has shown remarkable results in treating seizures in both adults and children. CBD is an extract from the marijuana plant.
Although the new drug is approved to treat severe forms of epilepsy, it can be prescribed for other medical ailments.
Paula and Terry Williams' son Zaylen has cerebral palsy. "He is like my miracle baby; I didn't think I could have kids," explains Paula Williams. But life for the Adamsville family is a daily struggle as two-year-old Zaylen has multiple seizures throughout the day, some life threatening.
Oxygen to help him breathe is never far away. A feeding tube nourishes him. "He's so sweet, so loving; he deserves a fighting chance," remarks Williams. She tells us hemp oil purchased legally through the internet has helped, but they believe marijuana based medicines could do so much more to help patients like Zaylen with research leading the way.
They question why the options available depend on where you live. They considered moving to another state with less stringent laws, but they are hesitant to leave the family support they have in Alabama.
They hope the focus will move from recreational use of marijuana to the lifesaving and life altering potential the plant has for treating a wide range of diseases and conditions.
Jerzy Szaflarski, M.D., Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Neurology calls the approval of the new medication called Epidiolex a game changer. "Why did it take so long? That was my first reaction," explains Dr. Szaflarski.
He lead UAB's research into CBD oil with the passing of Carly's Law. Doctors found a significant reduction in seizures in 60% of patients. "We saw many patients had remarkable responses, children with hundreds of seizures a week down to zero," explains Dr. Szaflarski. He sees multiple possible applications for the use of CBD oil to treat things like depression and PTSD.
While the drug is approved for two severe types of epilepsy, doctors can prescribe it in other cases like Zaylen's.
It's important to note these extract oils do not get someone high. There's little or no THC, a psychoactive ingredient. The DEA must still reclassify the drug before it's approved for sale.
Other questions remain for families such as will health insurance cover the medication, will doctors feel comfortable prescribing it and understand the dosing?