First-ever trial on infants for a cannabis medicine has begun in Norfolk

Published Jun 11, 2020 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / tatyana_tomsickova

Medicinal cannabis has caught on, as proven by its recent status as an essential product across much of the world, but for the most part, it’s adults that use it. The elderly use it to soothe aches and pain and to treat degenerative diseases, and millions rely on its benefits to reduce things like anxiety, seizures, and appetite, but the idea of youth-specific cannabis medicine is a relatively new one that has been met with backlash due to decades of prohibition, but what if it could save your child?

The barriers in research

Until recently, scientific data on cannabis use in adults was relatively hard to come by, as it crossed both moral and legal boundaries that existed at the time. Now that it’s legal in much of the world, and we have access to medicines like Epidiolex that are cannabis-based, we are uncovering some pretty amazing truths, and we are still having difficulty gaining traction in clinical research due to a long-standing bias against the plant, but there have been breakthroughs.

Until now, the closest studies that existed in regard to medicinal cannabis products and children were on pregnant mothers and first-hand accounts by brave parents who tried to use it to treat their youth's medical conditions. Cannabis oil for children is one of the most popular new ideas, and thousands of parents across the globe administer it daily to their kids with great success, but we’ve never seen anything quite like this before.

The trial

At Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in the UK, on March 3rd, Oscar Parodi was born by cesarean at 3 days overdue with a medical condition called Neonatal Hypoxic-ischemic Encephalopathy. This diagnosis is caused by a lack of either oxygen or blood flow from the placenta to the infant in utero, and as part of Oscar’s treatment, he was given a dose of a medicinal cannabis drug through intravenous only 12 hours after his birth.

The study involves researchers led by the St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust and Guy’s, and their hope is that this drug could eventually be available to everyone, as a way to routinely improve the outcome of at-risk babies who are prone to seizures and those that have had a brain injury. This research will validate both how safe it is and how effective it can be for treating infants who are born with HIE.

Is this the same thing as cannabis oil for children?

Since these unapproved methods of administering medicinal cannabis to children vary so much, it is nearly impossible to say that this trial is remotely close to the same. In some cases, those who have utilized the cannabis extract to treat their kids are using high THC combinations, which can result in a stereotypical buzz, that you could expect from smoking pot.

This particular treatment is different for several reasons, but the first and most important is that the medicine that is used in this trial is extracted with the utmost care to ensure that minimal amounts of the psychoactive element THC are present. That means the children who are getting this treatment are going to feel high, as they are harnessing the more medicinal aspects of the plant.

Will more infants receive this treatment?

Right now, researchers are monitoring the progress of Oscar before moving forward, but the hope would be that soon, many other new babies could be benefitting greatly from a cannabis-based medicine. This child was the very first, but there are very likely to be many who follow this path of treatment. That is of course if the researchers ultimately receive the results that they’re hoping for.

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