Medical marijuana study starts at UNMC

Posted at 3:36 PM, Jun 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-29 16:36:01-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - A metro area family says a new study of a certain kind of medical marijuana could lead to a better life for their son who now suffers about 30 seizures a day.

Each time Broc Bratenhagen, 14, has a seizure he is at great risk of falling and getting hurt. He’s suffered a chip tooth, bruises, and bloody noses. His parents, Mike and Lisa, are searching for any treatment they can find to reduce the number of seizures he has daily.

“Every time you have a seizure you don't know if you're going to go down the steps, or drown in the bath tub, or fall and hit your head wrong that time, so every seizure we reduce is a reduction in the risk for him,” said Broc’s father Mike.

Broc lives with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome which causes developmental delays, physical disabilities, and causes seizures. He was diagnosed when he was 5 months old after he began having seizures that caused his head and arms to lurch forward.

He has undergone 23 different treatments, a special dietary plan, and four different brain surgeries, which helped, but didn't end the seizures. Broc's family is hopeful about a new drug- a type of medical marijuana which will soon be given to patients in a study at UNMC. 

“To look and see if there is a treatment that can potentially be useful for patients, particularly patients that aren't responding to other available treatments, it really was our obligation to study this,” said Chris Kratochvil, M.D., the associate vice chancellor for clinical research at UNMC and vice president of research for Nebraska Medicine.

The drug, Epidiliolex, is made by England-based GW Pharmaceuticals. UNMC says it has very small amounts of THC, the chemical in marijuana that produces a high.

“The drug itself is very tightly controlled how we manage it here; track it, how the patients are brought in,” explained Dr. Kratochvil. “This is a very circumscribed approach to doing that."

The study is only possible because of a state law passed in 2015, which created the legal and clinical framework to give the drug to patients.

“I think there are important debates at the state and especially federal level that need to happen about access for research,” said State Senator Sue Crawford (Bellevue) who sponsored the bill.

While politicians go back and forth over policy regarding medical marijuana and whether or not to allow it in Nebraska, parents hope help will come.

“I know there 's a lot of divisiveness on both sides but the reality is, in my opinion, it’s just another opportunity, medication that people should have the opportunity to try,” said Bratenhagen.

The study is slated to last two years; the drug, in a liquid form, will be administered twice a day at UNMC.
It is selective; there are only 25 spots available.