Poland: Controversial marijuana treatment for kids

A new form of treatment which has seen epileptic children administered with marijuana has shown that in some cases sufferers have witnessed a 90 percent reduction in seizures it was reported this week.

According to news station TVN24, nine children at Warsaw’s Children’s Health Centre (Centrum Zdrowia Dziecka) have been given the drug over recent months as part of an epilepsy treatment programme and the results have so far proved positive.

One of those involved in the new programme is Marek Bachanski, a neuroscientist in the city’s Department of Neurology and Epileptology Institute. His first patient was five-year-old Maks, a serious sufferer who was prone to 200-300 seizures a day. He began receiving marijuana as part of his treatment last September and since then has seen his attacks drop by as much as 90 percent.

Speaking to reporters, the boy’s mother Dorota has expressed her joy of the effects the drug has brought. “For us it has offered our son a complete chance to live his life,” she stated.

Other patients have also noticed a significant reduction in their seizures and in total, nine children have been treated using the drug. Speaking to news agency PAP, Dr Bachanski admitted he is frequently asked by parents about his choice of drugs. “In some cases I do suggest it to people, but I would never force it upon them,” he stated.

During a debate on the medical use of marijuana organised by the Polish Drug Policy Network, Dr Bachanski stressed that the existing research into the effectiveness of the use of marijuana in the treatment of epileptic children was restricted to a small group of patients. However, he confirmed the results showed a “high efficiency rate”. He went on to add that the side effects of this form of treatment were few and were usually limited to drowsiness and fatigue.

In order to prescribe the drug, doctors must apply for a so-called ‘target import’ which allows them to receive it from abroad for each specific patient. The request must be confirmed by a paediatric neurologist and then sent for approval to the Ministry of Health. Once the permit has been issued, the prescribed drug is then imported via a Dutch pharmacy.

Speaking on the matter, Former Health Minister Marek Balicki stated marijuana is “a safe drug, effective and inexpensive”. He criticised the current ‘target import’ procedure, branding it “absurd” and called for the law to implement a better scheme which would allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes. “If we want the right to health in Poland, marijuana must be available for patients who need it,” he said.

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