• Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia will launch their study into the effects of medical marijuana on children with autism next year
  • Australian biopharmaceutical company Zelda Therapeutics is funding the research
  • Erica Daniels, founder of Hope Grows for Autism and mother of an autistic child, helped secure the partnership
  • 1 in 150 8-year-olds in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHoP) is set to launch the first major research programme in the US into the effects of medical cannabis on children with autism.

The study will build on data collected by the Australian company, Zelda Therapeutics, which is funding the research.

The aims of the CHoP study will be to determine what medical cannabis products parents in the region are giving their autistic children, for example, Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis, or THC, the chemical which gets you “high.”

Discussing the study, Athena Zuppa, the lead researcher of the study and the director of the hospital’s Center for Clinical Pharmacology, explained:

“We’re trying to understand the landscape of what the kids are taking

“Some kids are taking only CBD and some are taking a mixture of CBD and THC. I’m trying to understand how parents make their choices.”

The hospital will not provide any cannabis products to children, merely observe what they are being provided by their parents.

“This is truly an observational study.

“We’re not giving them anything. We’re just gathering data to educate ourselves.”

Research into autistic children who are already covered under Pennsylvania’s Safe Harbour provision is likely to begin in early 2018.

“For too long, patients and their families have been missing out on genuine therapeutic options with the potential to transform lives.”
– Erica Daniels, founder Hope Grows for Autism

There is already significant anecdotal evidence showing that cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis, help alleviate some of the more serious symptoms of autism.

Patients claims cannabis helps improve social interaction and control repetitive behaviour, without the side effects associated with pharmaceutical antipsychotic drugs often given to autistic children.

Zelda, which completed another observational study on autism in Chile last year, is also set to start clinical trials in Australia to investigate the effectiveness of medical marijuana on chronic insomnia.

The partnership between CHoP and Zelda was brokered by Erica Daniels, heroic area mother of an autistic child and founder of Hope Grows for Autism.

Describing her joy at bringing the two organizations together, Erica explained why the trial means so much:

“For too long, patients and their families have been missing out on genuine therapeutic options with the potential to transform lives.”

Cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug in the UK, meaning no patient can legally access full spectrum cannabis.

The latest prevalence studies of autism indicate that 1.1% of the population in the UK may be on the autism spectrum. This means that over 695,000 people in the UK may be autistic.

It also means nearly 700,000 are being denied potentially life-saving and changing medication.

Is it time for the UK to legalise cannabis for medicinal purposes?