11 Jun 2015

The case that brought medical cannabis oil to the world's attention

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 11 June 2015

A Colorado mother who fought for the use of Cannabis oil to treat her daughter’s severe epilepsy says the decision to allow a Nelson teen to be given the oil is a breakthrough.

Charlotte Figi

Charlotte Figi Photo: SUPPLIED

Eight-year-old Charlotte Figi of Colorado has severe epilepsy, but her seizures were virtually eliminated in 2013 after she was given a low THC form of cannabis oil.

Her case has lead to a huge upsurge in the use of cannabis oil as a treatment for epilepsy in the US, as well as research into its effectiveness.

Charlotte Figi's condition is similar to that of Nelson teenager Alex Renton, who is in an induced coma for status epilepticus, which causes repeat seizures.

He is to be treated with cannabis oil after Wellington hospital was given special one off permission, as all other treatments have failed.

Alex's mother Rose Renton said it had been a battle to get this recognised treatment approved but finally the doctors have accepted use of cannabis oil might be her son's only hope.

Paige Figi

Paige Figi Photo: SUPPLIED

When Charlotte was 5, her doctors told her parents there was nothing more they could do. Charlotte was having 300 grand mal seizures a day. She almost died several times.

Her epilepsy was so severe, she had to put into an induced coma. No treatment had worked.

Her mother Paige Figi, begged her daughter’s doctors to try low THC cannabis oil. At the time there was only anecdotal evidence of its effect on reducing seizures.

She finally found two doctors to sign off treatment with cannabidiol or CBD. The results were remarkable. Charlotte’s seizures immediately ceased.

She is now 8 years old and only has occasional seizures. She gets a dose of the cannabis oil twice a day in her food.

Paige Figi said she hopes Alex Renton’s case allows more people with epilepsy around the world to be treated with cannabis oil, as Charlotte's condition is similar to his.

Kathryn Ryan also spoke with with Dr Edward Maa, the chief of the Denver Health Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, who is researching the effectiveness of cannabis oil in treating epilepsy.