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Virginia girl suffering from epilepsy receives marijuana oil treatments

Va. girl suffering from epilepsy receives marijuana oil treatments.{ } Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 (ABC7 photo){ }{p}{/p}
Va. girl suffering from epilepsy receives marijuana oil treatments. Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 (ABC7 photo)

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Courtney Iser, a bouncy, affectionate 12-year-old from Frederick County, Virginia, has suffered from epilepsy since she was four months old.

“At one time, every rescue squad in town and the county knew us,” her father David said. “She can't run, play in sports or that stuff because if she gets overheated, she'll have a seizure.”

But now, through an FDA-approved clinical trial, Courtney is taking two daily doses of cannabis oil, giving her and her family new hope.

“Her speech is better, we’re getting a 30 percent reduction in her seizures,” her mother Sherri said.

The seizures are dropping from four a week to two; and they’re less severe.

Courtney’s attention span is better, her parents say.

She can go to school; spend time with other kids.

“I never would've imagined that I would have to give my daughter marijuana,” Sherri said. “But it’s working and it helps.”

For this study, the oil is in an oral medicine called Epidiolex, imported from England.

Under federal law, it can be used only for clinical trials.

The drug uses the chemical compound cannabidiol, or CBD for short, from the cannabis plant to treat epilepsy on an experimental basis.

The resulting oil doesn’t cause a person to get intoxicated or high.

But it does have a startling medical effect, experts say.

“They can actually suppress the immune system,” said Dr. Paul Lyons, a Winchester neurologist specializing in epilepsy treatment, who’s supervising Courtney’s study. “CBD acts to inhibit nerve cells in the brain, and in that way suppress or quiet seizures in the patients with epilepsy, who have a pre-disposition to unprovoked seizures.”

The Isers hope the oil will help Courtney live a normal life.

Medical professionals believe the liquid could also be used to treat other conditions, including multiple sclerosis, cancer, autism, and Alzheimer's disease.

In recent weeks, Virginia lawmakers have approved bills allowing epilepsy patients to be medically certified to use cannabis oil.

The certification would be a defense against criminal marijuana possession charges.

Another measure would allow any doctor to issue the certification; currently, only neurologists or epilepsy specialists are permitted to do so.

Those bills are heading to the desk of Governor Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist who’s indicated he’ll likely sign them into law.

“I want to be able to write a prescription for those patients with epilepsy syndromes,” Lyons said. “In the near future, there may be FDA decisions that might allow my patients to access (cannabis oil) through CVS or any other pharmacy.”

For now, though, Lyons says the Drug Enforcement Administration requires that he keep his cannabis oil supply in a safe.

Right now, Courtney has to take a daily dose of pharmaceuticals to deal with her epilepsy.

Her parents hope to wean her off those at some point.

For this 12-year-old girl and her family, the oil is a chance for a better future.

“What’s your hope for your daughter?” David Iser was asked.

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“That she can live a somewhat normal life, and that the seizures would stop completely,” he answered quietly.

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