Girl with epilepsy in S'pore first & only one receiving cannabis-based drug approved for treatment here

The approval was given by four organisations in the government.

Matthias Ang | December 02, 2019, 06:05 PM

Approval has been given by multiple authorities in Singapore for the usage of a cannabis-based drug for the treatment of a young girl afflicted with refractory epilepsy, The Straits Times reported.

This is the first case of its kind here.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the girl had exhausted all registered medications and failed to respond to multiple therapies.

Her doctor made the recommendation for the cannabis-based drug to be used.

Approval for drug given by four government organisations

Approval for the drug was given by MHA, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) and the Ministry of Health (MOH).

This was done after the girl's doctor applied to HSA to bring in a cannabis-based medicine, on the grounds that it could potentially address her medical needs, ST further highlighted.

Additionally, the doctor had also supported his request with data from clinical studies, which showed the value of the drug in treating the patient's drug-resistant epilepsy.

Drug is derived from a non-psychoactive component of marijuana

The President of the Singapore Epilepsy Society, Associate Professor Derrick Chan, was quoted by ST as stating that the drug likely to have been requested is Epidiolex.

According to a press release by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is the first cannabis-based drug to contain cannabidiol, a purified drug substance derived from marijuana.

However, cannabidiol neither causes intoxication or euphoria.

Instead, it is tetrahydrocannabinol that is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana.

The drug was approved on Jun. 25, 2018, for two rare and severe forms of epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, for patients two years and older.

ST further reported that it is likely the girl had received her medicine within the past year.

Parents have moved overseas to access medical cannabis

Chan further noted that multiple parents of epileptic children have asked about the use of medical cannabis since the trial for Epidiolex in the U.S. first began.

He added that some parents had also moved overseas to access such treatment and drugs.

However, Chan warned that Epidiolex is not a "super cure" and might not work for everyone.

Moreover, the uses of Epidiolex for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome cannot be extrapolated to other cannabis-based drugs.

We have reached out to MHA and HSA for comment.

More details on medical marijuana in Singapore:

Top image from CNB and ICA