Estimates place the number of children from Queensland, Australia with drug-resistant epilepsy at around 30,000, and the government is trying to help to the tune of $6 million.
After announcing the trials in 2015, Queensland will finally begin administering British pharmaceutical company GW Pharma’s pure CBD extract, Epidiolex, to children with acute cases of epilepsy by the end of the year. GW Pharma recently completed Phase 3 clinical trials for Epidiolex in the US and Europe, which showed the pure liquid cannabidiol to be “safe and effective.”
Dr. Geoffrey Guy, Chairman of GWPH’s Board of Directors, said the company has been working relentlessly to develop the potentially life-changing cannabidiol extract for nearly 20 years.
“We are incredibly proud of the work our researchers have carried out to develop Epidiolex as a potential treatment within the field of childhood-onset epilepsy,” proclaimed Dr. Guy. “We have recently completed two successful Phase 3 clinical trials in the US and Europe in patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, two rare, extremely debilitating epilepsy syndromes that begin in infancy or early childhood. We now look forward to seeking regulatory approval for Epidiolex across the world.”
Now, after receiving a $6 million investment from the Queensland government, GWPH will open up the next phase of trials to 30 Aussie children suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy and the incessant seizures the disease causes. Justin Gover of GWPH spoke on the company’s meticulous operation, saying, “All aspects of the production process, the growing of plants, extraction, and the purification of the CBD are carried out to the highest possible standards.”
Queensland Minister of Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick explained that the significant investment and subsequent trials are driven by “compassion and hope.” Dick also added, “We have listened to Queensland families who are suffering, and we are answering their calls to investigate this form of treatment.”
After selecting the 30 applicants they feel are best-suited for the program, a team of researchers from Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital will conduct the trial at a brand new specialized facility within the Queensland Centre for Children’s Health Research. Lady Cilento’s Director of Pediatric Neurosciences Dr. Geoff Wallace will lead the research team, which is contracted to work on the project for three years under the agreement.
Families can start applying to participate in the trial now by calling 13 HEALTH or speaking with their primary care physician. The research team will start recruiting for the trials in November, and will hopefully begin administering the drug by the end of the year. Normally, with clinical drug trials like this, a predetermined number of participants will receive the drug while the rest receive a placebo to test the effectiveness of the drug in question. However, in the Queensland Epidiolex trial, all 30 children will be administered the pure CBD oil, with no participants receiving a placebo.
“By progressing these trials, we can shed light on what potential benefits this treatment can provide, and what conditions respond favourably and unfavourably,” Minister Dick said. “We can’t cure severe treatment-resistant childhood epilepsy, but I want those children and their families to know that we are doing everything we can to ease their suffering.”
Dick summarized the team’s efforts by adding, “This treatment has the potential to change lives.”
(Photo Courtesy of National Geographic)