Two Australian paediatricians from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne have called for trials of medical cannabis in children with psychiatric or behavioral conditions such as autism, saying the need is urgent.
Dr Daryl Efron and Dr Jeremy Freeman say psychotropic medications are the most frequently prescribed medications by Australian paediatricians, but these carry a risk of serious adverse effects in children and adolescents – particularly those with developmental disorders.
The pair also expressed their concerns of “polypharmacy,” whereby drugs are added to a child’s regimen in order to deal with side effects of other drugs, or to deal with new symptoms.
They says little has been done with regard to drug development work in relation to child and adolescent mental health for some years and there is an urgent need to develop safe and effective therapeutics, naming medical cannabis (MC) as one potential treatment.
In their paper, they note some of the research and anecdotal evidence to date on medical cannabis use in children and adults, but also say there is still too little evidence to either support or reject the use of MC in the treatment of behavioural and psychiatric disorders in children.
“In summary, MC has potential as a therapeutic option in the management of paediatric mental health symptoms; however, the evidence to support its use for these patients is not yet in,” state the pair.
“There is an urgent need to conduct well‐designed trials of pharmaceutical‐grade MC products in children with behavioural and psychiatric disorders. In the meantime, paediatricians should counsel caution in relation to MC treatment for these indications.”
Such trials would no doubt be welcomed by many families in Australia caring for a child with a developmental or psychiatric disorder, which can sometimes be an around-the-clock undertaking. With regard to autism specifically, around one in 100 people has the condition; which translates to approximately 230,000 Australians – although the impacts on these patients can be anywhere from mild to profound.
The paper, “Medical cannabis for paediatric developmental–behavioural and psychiatric disorders” can be viewed in full here.
On a related note, we reported in December that Australia’s Zelda Therapeutics Ltd (ASX: ZLD) had partnered with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to delve into the pharmacology of cannabinoids, with view to developing a medicine for treating autism.