BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Four Idaho children are receiving treatment for severe forms of epilepsy with an experimental, non-psychoactive drug derived from marijuana plants, state health officials announced Monday.
Elke Shaw-Tulloch of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare told state budget writers that Idaho has filled four of the 25 slots in the newly created Expanded Access Program, which Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter established last year through executive order. It treats children suffering from severe epileptic seizures with the new drug known as Epidiolex.
The program officially launched earlier this month.
Shaw-Tulloch said another 18 children are scheduled to be screened for the program, and if more families are interested in participating, the department will consult with the Federal Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug, GW Pharmaceuticals.
The program coincides with a statewide clinical trial that is testing the drug on epileptic adults and children. Those results won't be released for years, and it's unknown if the drug is having the intended effect in either setting, explained state epidemiologist Christine Hahn.
"This particular one is too early to say," she said. "There have been ... anecdotal reports out of Colorado and other places where they have an artisanal product and they are claiming success. I guess I would say I am guardedly optimistic."
Hahn said she hopes to see the program continue until substantive results are released.
Lawmakers approved legalizing oil derived from marijuana plants last year. Supporters of the bill, like Boise resident Clare Carey, argued the extract oil can reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in children with epilepsy.
However, Otter vetoed the legislation after citing concerns that there wasn't enough evidence supporting the claims. Instead, the Republican governor signed an executive order establishing the new program that restricted the use of the oil to 25 children.
Carey, whose daughter Alexis suffers from Dravet syndrome, told The Associated Press on Monday the new program is a mismanagement of taxpayer dollars, as other clinical trials have already finished in places like Illinois and New York.
Her daughter is not participating in the program, as she anticipates Epidiolex and other similar drugs may be on the market later this year.
"Anyone will be able to access to it, not just 25 people in the program," Carey said.
By KATHRYN HAAKE, Associated Press
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