The use of marijuana for medical purposes remains illegal in Mexico but an eight-year-old girl from Monterrey with a severe and debilitating illness may be the first patient allowed to use it.
Graciela Elizalde Benavides suffers from Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a type of epilepsy that provokes up to 400 seizures per day, leaving the child weak and sleepy. Despite her age, Graciela doesn’t speak, has no motility — the ability to move spontaneously and actively, and depends on her family for everything.
Grace, as her relatives affectionately call her, has tried over 19 anti-convulsant treatments with strong and serious side effects, including effects on her vision and uncontrollable salivation, said her mother, Mayela Benavides.
Benavides said that radiosurgery had been tried but the results were not successful. Following that, physicians at the Children’s Hospital of Mexico tried a corpus callosotomy, a palliative surgical procedure for the treatment of seizures. The results were again negative.
At a loss for options, Grace’s parents found their last resort in cannabidiol, or CBD, an oil extracted from cannabis sativa, or marijuana, characterized by having no psychoactive effects. Research showed that treatment using the oil could prove successful in alleviating Grace’s violent epileptic episodes.
But on June 29, the General Health Council, a grouping of federal health entities, sent an official notice to Grace’s parents to advise that they had found no substantial scientific evidence of the effectiveness of CBD treatments or other cannabis derivatives. The council also suggested that such treatments, when administered to children, could even worsen their condition.
Grace’s parents responded by seeking an amparo, or injunction, to authorize the import of CBD. They presented international studies and research to a federal judge showing that up to 84% of patients with similar symptoms had seen a noticeable decrease in seizures with negligible secondary effects.
The studies they presented were supported by neurologists and other medical specialists who cited the case of a young patient in the U.S. who suffered from Dravet’s Syndrome, which provoked up to 300 seizures per week. After the treatment, these were reduced to just three.
Presented with this evidence, the judge determined on August 17 to authorize the import of cannabidiol, granting Grace’s parents an injunction that would allow them to purchase the derivative from a Colorado dispensary.
The parents’ lawyer described the decision as historic. “It’s a watershed in our country because the marijuana issue has been very complicated. What makes this significant is the departure from a policy of prohibiting all cannabis-related conduct,” Fabián Aguinaco said on Tuesday.
The next step in the process is a trip to the U.S. where specialists can assess Grace’s condition and prescribe the CBD treatment.
Several photographs of Grace have been published this week following a request by her parents that her identity be made public. They said they want their daughter to be a symbol in the struggle for the legalization of marijuana and its derivates for medical purposes.