LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A local husband and wife are doing everything medically possible to help their 11-year-old daughter stem uncontrollable seizures.
In a story only on CBS2, some people think the couple are not only doing everything possible, but also something questionable.
Mallory Minahan has been battling epilepsy since she was 14 months old.
“She would begin seizing around 10:30 at night. For instance, in her sleep. And that would continue every 40 minutes, until 3 or 4 in the morning,” says her mother, Carrin.
“Everything pretty much ends like if she’s at a party and she has a seizure,” says Mallory’s 10-year-old sister, Meghan.
Through the years, Mallory’s gone through a dozen different types of treatment, but nothing has worked.
Mallory has taken a variety of medications and supplements and her family has tried virtually everything, CBS2’s Jeff Nguyen reports.
These days, Mallory’s parents say she is only on one anti-epileptic drug and “a very minute amount of it.”
She’s also, says her mom, using CBD oil.
Mallory’s mom is referring to an oil derived from a compound found in cannabis (or marijuana.) The oil has many of the medical benefits without making a patient feel “stoned,” say experts. CBD is very low in THC, the element that makes people high.
The oil is placed under her tongue and absorbed into her system. CBD, says her parents, has anti-epilepsy properties.
“It’s amazing how many physicians ask me if my daughter is smoking marijuana,” says Mallory’s father, Thomas. “When they hear she’s on it. ‘They ask me. Is your daughter smoking it?’ It’s an oil and she’s not getting high. They’re confused because they think kids are getting high and they’re smoking it.”
Mallory’s parents both work in the medical field — mom is a licensed nurse, dad is an ER doctor in the Inland Empire.
“About a year ago, if you asked me about medical marijuana, I’d say it was used for abuse primarily,” says Thomas. “Now here we are. I’m taking a whole 180 degree turn on this where I know it has medicinal value. I know it does.”
Dr. Travis Losey, the Medical Director of the Epilepsy Program at Loma Linda University, is not yet ready to jump on the medical marijuana bandwagon.
He is concerned with how the drug will interact with other epilepsy drugs treating patients.
“At this point, many of my patients haven’t noticed a major change in their seizure frequency when they have tried cannabis,” Losey said.
The American Epilepsy Society says recent reports on the positive effects of cannabis oil are “anecdotal.”
Nguyen asked Tom, “What do you say to people who might worry that the medical marijuana might hurt your daughter’s brain development?”
“I’d like to see the study that asks what did the last thousand seizures do to her brain,” he says.
Her parents point out, anecdotal or not, their daughter’s life has vastly improved since she started using CBD.
After starting her cannabis treatment in October, Mallory has been able to go back to school after missing classes for the past two years.
“It’s incredible. It’s like suddenly you’re seeing your child for who they really are,” says her mom. “Without all the medications; without the slowness recovering from the seizure.”
“I’m doing a lot better on my medicine,” says Mallory.
Mallory’s mother says her daughter used to suffer 30 to 40 seizures a month. The number is now less than one a month.
And she says there’s one other benefit.
The oil has made Mallory more social. Some of the other medications she was on would make her groggy and inactive.
“I like to play with my friends,” said Mallory.
The Minahans acknowledge Mallory’s treatment isn’t perfect. They pay a third party to test their CBD oil and make sure it’s accurate and doesn’t have pesticides or mold.
In all, it’s about $1,000 a month and CBD oil is not covered by insurance.
While grown ups debate the efficacy of this treatment, Meghan says it has helped her to get her sister back.
“She used to take a while to answer you when you would ask her a question or something. She would take a while answer it. And now right when you ask her, her answer is right there,” says Meghan.
Their brother Trevor, 8, says Mallory’s treatment has been a huge boost for the entire family.
“My dad and my mom don’t have to get up in the middle of the night,” he says.
Medical marijuana is legal in California, but it’s still not legal on the federal level.
Dr. Minahan is pushing to have the drug re-classified so that it’s no longer grouped with heroin, ecstasy and LSD.
Such a move would open the way for more testing of medical marijuana and lead to regulations for the manufacturing of the drug.