Got questions about medical marijuana? Experts have answers

SHARE Got questions about medical marijuana? Experts have answers

In a few months, medical marijuana is likely to become available to seriously ill adults and kids in Illinois, but the brand new program and drug may leave seriously ill people with more questions than answers.

To help them, Americans for Safe Access and the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago are hosting a “patient summit” Saturday in Chicago’s South Loop to help answer basic questions.

For instance, a parent whose child has epilepsy might be interested in using a special marijuana-based oil to help treat devastating seizures but may ask: “Now that I can get medical cannabis for my child, what do I do?” said Kurt Florian, the president of the Chicago Epilepsy group.

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One of the speakers Saturday will be Srishti Nangia, a pediatric doctor at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago who treats kids with epilepsy. She also is a researcher studying how pure CBD, or cannabidiol — a compound in cannabis that, unlike the well-known THC, does not make people feel stoned — affects kids who have hard-to-treat seizures.

At Lurie, 25 kids have been receiving the oil extract called Epidiolex. The national, uncontrolledstudy — no placebos were used in a control group — has found that seizures decreased by an average of 54 percent in 137 people who took the drug for four months, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

Two other controlled studies of that drug are underway, Nangia said.

“It’s a promising drug but more research needs to be done to prove its effectiveness,” she said.

At the University of Chicago, researchers are studying a synthetic version of CBD, said Michael Kohrman, professor of pediatrics and neurology at the U. of C.

There are 60 patients across the country, and Kohrman is working with five of them, he said. That study is still in the first phase, trying to determine whether the drug is safe, he said.

Kohrman isn’t a speaker Saturday, but researcher Sue Sisley, an Arizona-based doctor and psychiatrist, will discuss her work. She said she has received federal approval to study the effects of medical marijuana on veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The state announced this week that 2,500 patients have been approved to use medical marijuana in Illinois.

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