Cannabis OK’d for treatment of epilepsy in children

Families of kids with severe seizures, for whom traditional medication is ineffective, had threatened to move to Colorado

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Illustrative photo of a marijuana bud (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a marijuana bud (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Israeli children suffering from severe and frequent epileptic seizures and whose medication has proven ineffective will be eligible for medicinal cannabis, the Health Ministry ruled on Wednesday.

Following a campaign by parents of such children, the ministry has decided to reevaluate all appeals for a prescription that were previously dismissed, as epilepsy currently does not appear on the list of diseases for which cannabis is an authorized form of treatment.

The 15 families who had appealed to the ministry threatened to move to Colorado should their requests be denied.

“My daughter has seven-eight seizures a day and the doctors have nothing to do,” S. wrote to the Health Ministry, according to the online Cannabis magazine. “I’m not asking, I’m begging — give me the license to use medical cannabis. With this amount of seizures, what is the Health Ministry waiting for? That God forbid her condition will deteriorate further? Why not relieve the girl and us? Why are they letting us suffer this way?”

“Within a few days or weeks, those found suitable [for treatment with cannabis] will receive the license,” the Health Ministry said Wednesday.

In addition, doctors will monitor and study those children to whom the drug is administered in order to document its effects on inhibiting seizures.

The order on Wednesday applies only to children. Applications for adult epileptics will continue to be referred to a special committee for further evaluation.

In Wednesday’s session, the Health Ministry also added Fibromyalgia to the list of illnesses eligible for medical marijuana, which includes cancer, Parkinson’s, Tourette’s, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis.

Medical marijuana use rose sharply in 2013, according to figures released by the Health Ministry, which indicated that some 13,000 patients in total had been approved for the legal use of cannabis in 2013, compared with 10,000 in 2012, an increase of 30 percent.

Gavriel Fiske contributed to this report.

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