Oliver Osborn, a ten month old baby, suffers from partial migrating epilepsy. Sufferers can be prone to up to 100 seizures a day and are rarely expected to survive beyond seven years. Following the successful treatment of Charlotte Figi in Colorado, who has a similar condition, Oliver has been given hope. While his condition may become controllable with the help of liquid cannabis, however, the chemical is still not available to Oliver in his home of Peterlee, County Durham in the UK.
The drug itself, a strain of Liquid Canabis, has several names. Most frequently called “Charlotte’s Web,” it is also referred to as “Realm Oil” or “Alepsia.” When used to treat epilepsy, one drop of the liquid is placed under the tongue every day. It is reported to reduce seizures by almost 90%, and in the case of Charlotte Figi, her condition was said to have improved with the first dose. Dr. Whalley, the senior lecturer in pharmacology at the Reading school of pharmacy, stated that liquid cannabis could be effective in cases of children whose epilepsy is unable to be controlled with conventional “anticonvulsant treatment.”
The plant strain that the drug is harvested from was developed in 2011 by the Stanley brothers in Colorado. It comes from a crossbreed of marijuana with industrial hemp and is considered to be promising as a medicinal form of cannabis due to its lack of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This means there is no psychoactive reaction. Instead, the oil contains larger amounts of cannabidiol (CBD), which has been linked to the reversal of alcohol-induced brain damage and the prevention of cancer metastasis.
This state, in which the medicinal strain “Charlotte’s Web” was created, has seen an increase in people travelling to receive care with medicinal marijuana. Colorado allows the use of medicinal cannabis for eight conditions: cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, muscle spasms, seizures, severe pain, severe nausea, and cachexia (dramatic weight loss and muscle atrophy).
While many reports concerning the use of medicinal cannabis have increased public demand for its wider usage, a review in 2012 by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that there is not enough evidence available to draw absolute conclusions pertaining to its use. With the same sentiment, the American Epilepsy society said:
“While there are some anecdotal reports of marijuana use in treating epilepsy, scientific evidence for the routne use of marijuana for this indication is lacking. The lack of information does not mean that marijuana is ineffective for epilepsy. It merely means that we do not know if marijuana is a safe and efficacious treatment for epilepsy.”
However, while medical authorities are calling for more extensive trials before allowing the use of “Charlotte’s Web” and other medicinal forms of cannabis, the legal situation that surrounds them makes such trials incredibly difficult to carry out. In the hope of making the process of clinical trials easier, the Stanley brothers plan to move their operation to Uruguay, which will allow them to import it to any US state as hemp. While the treatment remains inaccessible for Oliver in the UK, his parents hope that they will be able to raise enough money and awareness for him to receive what they see as his last option.