The Epilepsy Foundation led a group of organizations representing individuals living with chronic and rare health conditions in an April 27, 2016 letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) expressing broad support from the patient community for removing federal barriers to cannabis research.
Moving cannabis from Schedule I in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) would pave the way for greater research and new treatments. Currently it is difficult for scientists and researchers to organize clinical trials involving cannabis because it is a Schedule I substance and only the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) can cultivate cannabis for medical research. There are also additional costs and infrastructure requirements due to the Schedule I status that can limit innovation and investment in medical benefit research.
Recently the DEA announced it would make a determination on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendation on the scheduling of cannabis in the first half of 2016. This announcement was included in a letter from the DEA, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), sent to the Senate in response to a 2015 letter.
Group Letter on Cannabis Rescheduling (April 2016)
Epilepsy Foundation Press Release for Group Letter to DEA on Cannabis Rescheduling
The Epilepsy Foundation is committed to supporting physician directed care, and to exploring and advocating for all potential treatment options for epilepsy, including cannabidiol (CBD) oil and medical cannabis. People with uncontrolled seizures live with the continual risk of serious injuries and loss of life. If a patient and their healthcare professionals feel that the potential benefits of medical cannabis for uncontrolled epilepsy outweigh the risks, then families need to have that legal option. Nothing should stand in the way of patients gaining access to this potentially lifesaving treatment.
The Epilepsy Foundation supports legislation that would allow people living with epilepsy and uncontrolled seizures to gain access to this promising treatment option. In states where medical use of cannabis is legal as a treatment for epilepsy, a number of people living with epilepsy report beneficial effects, including a decrease in seizure activity, when using a cannabis strain rich in cannabidiol, a non-euphoric component of cannabis.
Not everyone with epilepsy should or would consider medical cannabis as a treatment option, and further research is needed on the connection between cannabis and seizures. But medical cannabis, when recommended by a treating physician, may be the best alternative for some individuals living with drug resistant epilepsy and uncontrolled seizures.
Dr. Orrin Devinksy Discusses Medical Cannabis and Epilepsy