New Zealand

Epilepsy patient gets special dispensation to be treated with hemp oil

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Alex Renton before the onset of his epilepsy
Alex Renton before the onset of his epilepsy

Related tags Cannabis

Though its hemp oil has not yet been approved as a medicine in New Zealand, one American supplier has been granted special permission to supply cannabidiol (CBD) oil to a teen there with a severe form of epilepsy.

Elixinol, which was founded by Australia-based hemp grower Paul Benhaim of Hemp Foods, has been allowed to administer the CBD to 19-year-old Alex Renton, who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy and is in an induced coma. 

Hemp oil

Sudden, unexplained onset

Normally healthy, Renton suddenly began to suffer from repeated seizures that ultimately had him admitted to the Wellington Hospital’s intensive care unit. 

His condition, refractory status epilepticus, has proved nearly impossible to treat with standard medications and treatments, and he remains in a coma after more than two months.

According to deputy chief medical officer Dr Grant Pidgeon, "It is unknown for sure what is causing his seizures but it is thought to be due to his body's immune system turning against itself, which is known as an auto-immune disorder​."

With the assistance of The Capital and Coast District Health Board, Renton’s family and 26,000 New Zealanders petitioned the health minister, who approved the use of Elixinol CBD Hemp Oil (pictured, in a test tube) on compassionate grounds. 

Minister Peter Dunne said, "Understandably they want to do the best for their son, and they believe that this option is worth trying​.”

In response, Rose Renton, Alex’s mother, said she felt a sense of relief for trying “something that isn’t going to be harmful and may work for him​”. 

Marijuana’s curative cousin

Often wrongly caught up in the marijuana debate, organically grown hemp oil has practically non-existent amounts of the psychoactive chemical THC. Instead, it is very high in the curative cannabidiol, which is gaining acceptance as a safe and effective means of treating epilepsy.

Benhaim said he hoped Elixinol  would help Renton: “Myself and others around the world have our hearts and minds focussed on Alex’s return to health and hope this will be yet another example of the merits of non-psychoactive hemp nutrition​.”

Elixinol is working closely with the family and hospital officials to administer the oil and monitor the patient’s progress.

"Alex was on a life support system for 57 days after being pumped full of so many drugs, so we don't expect an immediate recovery​," Benhaim told FoodNavigator-Asia, though regulations prevent him from providing a more detailed update.

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