We’re going to assume the name, Dr William G Lennox isn’t one you’re familiar with. He’s not exactly a household name.
But he was one of the most influential doctors of the 20th Century.
According to his 1960 obituary:
‘Dr. Lennox spent four years as a medical missionary in China at the Union Medical College in Peiping. It was there, when the 8-year-old daughter of a friend was stricken with epilepsy, that he became interested in the disease.’
It was this initial experience that sparked Lennox to become one of the most influential people in the field of epilepsy research, globally.
He would go on to launch the American Epilepsy League and the Committee for Public Understanding of Epilepsy.
There aren’t many that sit at the same heights as Dr Lennox in the field of epilepsy research. However, Dr Henri Gastaut is one that is arguably as important to the modern detection and treatment of epilepsy.
Gastaut was the first to recognise the technique of using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to study normal and abnormal brain function. In particular was his interest in how the EEG could be used to study the impacts of epilepsy.
Gastaut and his EEG research focused on epilepsy helped bring the understanding of epilepsy and its causes into the modern era.
Without the work of both Lennox and Gastaut, there’s little doubt we wouldn’t understand epilepsy the way we do today. Their impact is still felt around the world today, and as a mark of respect to both, a specific and rare epileptic condition was named after them both.
Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome is a rare epilepsy syndrome. No one is born with it, but it develops over time often from childhood. According to the National Organisation for Rare Disorders,
Lennox-Gastaut syndrome affects males slightly more often than females. Lennox-Gastaut syndrome is estimated to occur in 0.1–0.28 people per 100,000 and is believed to account for 1–4% of all cases of childhood epilepsy. The annual incidence in children is estimated to be two per 100,000 children.
While a rare disorder, it’s still something that families around the world have to deal with on a daily basis.
Getting medicinal cannabis is nigh on impossible
The most hard-hitting example of this is the recent story of Teagan and Emma Appleby.
Nine-year-old Teagan has Lennox-Gastaut syndrome as well as a chromosomal disorder, Isodicentric 15. Due to these disorders, Teagan can have up to 300 seizures per day.
Teagan’s mother, Emma, had been repeatedly trying to access modern treatment for Teagan, in the way of medicinal cannabis.
Seeing as medicinal cannabis is legal in the UK, it was a pathway to potentially giving Teagan a quality of life she’d never experienced before.
However, there was one giant roadblock standing in her way. While it’s legal in the UK, actually getting a prescription for medicinal cannabis is nigh on impossible.
There’s an incredible reluctance from doctors and physicians to actually prescribe it.
That’s because there’s not an abundance of clinical research and evidence of benefit. There’s numerous real world examples of people using cannabis therapies and resulting in benefit. But due to the illegal treatment of cannabis for the last 50 years, there’s been a barren wasteland for actual research.
That, however, is all starting to change.
Clinical studies that demonstrate benefits are taking place
We know that clinical studies that demonstrate clinical benefit is already taking place.
For example, research published in the Journal of Epilepsy Research, titled ‘Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last?’ concluded:
‘Evidence concerning the potential anti-seizure efficacy of cannabinoids reached a turning point in the last 12 months, with the completion of the first high-quality placebo-controlled trials of a purified oil-based liquid CBD preparation in patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. The results of these studies demonstrate that, at a dosage of 20 mg/kg/day, CBD added on to pre-existing AED treatment is superior to placebo in reducing the frequency of convulsive (tonic-clonic, tonic, clonic, and atonic) seizures in patients with Dravet syndrome, and the frequency of drop seizures in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.’
Put simply, there’s your clinical evidence that medicinal cannabis therapy has clinical benefit for epilepsy sufferers, in particular Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Which makes it even more baffling that the Applebys were unable to get a UK-based prescription for Teagan.
Due to the bureaucratic and conservative treatment of cannabis in the UK, Emma was forced to take Teagan over to The Netherlands to get a prescription and treatment there instead.
Once they had their prescription and dosages they would bring it back to the UK. After all, they did everything by the book and got access to legal medicinal treatment. And being legal in the UK, you’d think bringing it back wouldn’t be an issue.
Except it was.
When will the medical cannabis market thrive?
The customs at Southend airport stopped them and confiscated Teagan’s treatments as they got off the airplane. This hit every major new outlet in the UK. It’s caused a social uproar and it’s now even been discussed in the halls of Parliament.
Teagan’s medicinal cannabis treatments weren’t destroyed, thankfully. And now through public pressure and debate in the government, it’s likely the Applebys will get their prescriptions back.
But it hasn’t happened yet, and there’s no firm time frame on when it will happen. But what we do know is this story has again brought to the surface the disparity between the government approach to legal medicinal cannabis and the public’s views.
It’s leading to calls for a loosening of restrictions and encouraging a more liberal approach to prescribing these treatments. There is now clinical research to prove effectiveness. All it needs is for the government to open the doors and let the industry thrive.
And that’s exactly what we think is coming. Not just in the UK, but in Europe, Asia and Australia. The widening of policy in this way leads us to believe that 2019 and 2020 will be the year that legal cannabis really hits the mainstream.
If this is how it plays out, and we’re right on our research into this area, then we could see the biggest boom in cannabis-focused clinical research and development we’ve ever seen.
The ‘green rush’ is well and truly on the way. And it’s real people, just like Teagan Appleby, with real pain affecting real change.