AUSTIN, Texas - It has been one year since the first medical cannabis companies in Texas received provisional licenses.
Tuesday, two of those companies announced they've started a fund with the Texas Epilepsy Foundation to help qualifying patients afford medical CBD oil.
Currently, federal restrictions on medical cannabis prevent insurance companies from covering CBD oil for patients with intractable epilepsy. That means anyone who qualifies for treatment with CBD has to pay out of pocket.
Compassionate Cultivation hopes their contribution to the fund will help more people with uncontrolled epilepsy afford CBD. Janet Herrera says her 18-year-old daughter Jordan was diagnosed with Gervais Syndrome, a rare severe form of uncontrolled epilepsy, when she was just six months old.
“She's 18 now, cognitively she's still at a 1st to 2nd grade level. She still suffers from seizures every day. The grand mals are about one to every three weeks,” Herrera said.
For years Jordan has used anti-convulsant medications that carried dangerous side effects, but just a few months ago, Jordan tried something she'd never used before, cannabis based oil or CBD.
“It's still trial and error, but the CBD oil, I can tell you, hands down, has done really good things for her,” said Herrera.
The only problem is the oil is not covered by insurance.
“This cost and expense for me has been exponential,” Herrera said.
Compassionate Cultivation CEO Morris Denton said patients at his dispensary are paying on average between $275- 300 per month.
To help with those costs, medical cannabis companies in Texas, Compassionate Cultivation and Knox Medical, are both donating $5,000 to the Epilepsy Foundation of Central and South Texas to create the Compassionate Use Patient Assistance Program.
“I know there are a lot of people out there who wouldn't be able to afford this medicine who really, really need it and could really, really benefit from it,” said Denton.
In order to obtain CBD oil, patients with uncontrolled epilepsy must have prescriptions from two registered doctors. They also must meet certain requirements, like not responding to other anti-seizure medications.
“We have somewhere between 150-200 patients that have come to us since we opened our doors on February 8. Fortunately, the majority of those are seeing some really positive results, with, I'd say, between 70-80 percent of our patients are finding success,” Denton said.
Compassionate Cultivation received their provisional license one year ago. The first patients purchased CBD oil at their dispensary in February. Jordan was one of them.
“This right here is life saving and potentially more effective than any anti-convulsant medication on the market,” said Herrera.
Denton hopes with the Compassionate Use Patient Assistance Program several more people in Texas will be able to afford the help they need.
Compassionate Cultivation has also committed to donating profits from merchandise sales to the program.
Patients are able to apply for or donate to the program on the Texas Epilepsy Foundation's website.