Charlotte Figi and the CBD Revolution
How a young girl became the face and hero of CBD.
Charlotte Figi, a child with a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome, sadly passed away 7th April 2020. Charlotte, the 13-year-old who started the CBD revolution, was hospitalised 2 weeks before her death with pneumonia. This complication caused her Dravet Syndrome seizures to return and resulted in a cardiac arrest; she passed away peacefully in her mother’s arms.
From Colorado, Charlotte suffered her first seizure when she was just 3 months old. Caught off guard, her parents rushed her into hospital. After extensive tests and scans, the doctors could not find what was wrong.
A week later Charlotte had another seizure that lasted longer. Over the next few months, Charlotte had dozens more seizures lasting between two to four hours. Her parents were terrified and had to hospitalise her frequently. The doctors were stumped, her blood tests and scans were normal, they said that she would grow out of it.
But Charlotte didn’t grow out of it, the seizures continued and became more and more frequent. The hospital stays grew longer. At 18 months old, she was still developing normally, talking and walking, but the medications were starting to take their toll. Charlotte was on 7 different drugs including Barbiturates and Benzodiazepines. They would work for a while but the seizures would always return with a vengeance. By the age of 2, Charlotte started to decline cognitively. At the age of 2 and 1/2, Charlotte was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of intractable epilepsy. Intractable meaning that the seizures cannot be controlled by medication.
Her parents, Matt & Paige Figi, were running out of options. Doctors wanted to try an experimental anti-seizure drug that was being prescribed for dogs!
Paige Figi took her daughter to Chicago to see a Dravet Specialist who put Charlotte on a special Ketogenic diet frequently used to treat epilepsy. The diet, being high in fats, low in carbohydrates, forces the body to make Ketones. Ketones are natural chemicals that suppress seizures. The diet was successful for a while and did control the seizures but there were a lot of side effects. Charlotte suffered from bone loss, her immune system was compromised and it was affecting her behaviour. She started eating things out of the garden like pine cones. Unfortunately, after just 2 years on the diet, her seizures returned and her family were left scrambling for relief.
Charlotte was now 5 years old, she had lost the ability to walk, talk, and could not swallow food and had to be fed by a tube. She was having more than 300 seizures a week at this point. Doctors wanted to put Charlotte into an induced coma to give her battered body and brain a rest. They thought there was nothing more that they could do.
The CBD revolution was born.
Charlotte’s father Matt Paige saw a video online of a young boy with epilepsy being treated with Cannabis, a strain that was high in CBD and very low in THC. It said scientists believed that CBD quietens the excessive electrical and chemical activity in the brain that causes seizures. Matt and Paige decided to try and buy some medical marijuana …after all they had exhausted every option except Cannabis.
Paige found a dispensary that had a small amount of Cannabis that was low in THC and high in CBD and had a friend extract the oil. The results were immediate and unbelievable after the first dose Paige and Matt waited for the next seizure, an hour passed, then 2 and 3 ….nothing, an entire week passed before Charlotte had a seizure.
Their small amount of cannabis oil was running out, the Paiges were desperate to find an inexhaustible supply. On their quest for more was when they met with the Stanley Brothers, one of the largest Cannabis growers in Colorado. The Stanley Brothers had developed a strain of Cannabis they had nicknamed ‘Hippies Disappointment’ it was high in CBD and low in THC. You couldn’t get high on it, they couldn’t sell it, no one wanted it.
They renamed it ‘Charlotte’s Web’
Charlotte’s seizures reduced to 2 – 3 times a month, only weeks earlier she was suffering thousands. She started walking, riding her bike and talking more every day. Her brain started making connections that hadn’t been made in years.
Matt said “why were we the ones that had to go and find this natural cure, how come the doctors didn’t know about this? ”
In 2013 the CNN Medical correspondent Dr Sanja Gupta interviewed Charlotte’s parents Matt and Paige as part of a documentary on the use of Cannabis called ‘Weed’.
This Documentary helped Charlotte Figi spark the CBD revolution. She became, overnight, the face and hero of the CBD movement.
Sanja Gupta had previously written an article entitled ‘Why I would vote no to Pot (cannabis)’ for Time Magazine; Sanja credits Charlotte for changing his mind.
Sanja said: “Charlotte made me realise that it would not just be a medical failing, but a moral failing, if this natural medicine was somehow withheld from people”
Charlotte Figi was the little girl that made a huge impact; if not for Charlotte, Cannabis might still be illegal to grow in the United States and throughout Europe. Millions of people around the world who suffer from Epilepsy and many other conditions might not have had access to CBD. Her life story has had a catalytic impact by advancing our knowledge and use of a vital healing option.
The Cannabis plant has always been misunderstood before Charlotte was involved and before everyone had seen and heard her story. When someone so young could live a life virtually seizure-free when every other drug had failed; this could not be ignored by scientists and the medical world.
Charlotte’s story ignited a movement to reverse decades of negativity and misinformation and redefined natural plant-based medicine.
CBD as a medicine is REAL and for many, it is the ONLY option.
CBD has since gained medical and legal acceptance worldwide. It can be used to treat a variety of illnesses and diseases from chronic pain to cancer. CBD is impossible to overdose from. It is non-addictive and the only recorded side effects from very high doses (in excess of 300mg in a day) are a feeling of dizziness or nausea.
May we all search for better and more natural alternatives free from harmful side effects and stop at nothing to maintain and improve our own health and wellbeing and those closest to us.
CBD in Pharmaceuticals
After Charlotte’s story hit the news, drug companies all over the world began experimenting with CBD. The CBD revolution was gaining traction! The race was on for new drug therapies. The first company to succeed was GW Pharmaceuticals. A timeline of their products is here:
Approved June 25th 2018 in the United States by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet Syndrome. It is the first FDA approved medicine that contains a purified substance derived from Cannabis; CBD isolate. It is also the first approved treatment for Dravet Syndrome. The active ingredient is Cannabidiol or CBD.
Approved in November 2018, Sativex was the first cannabis-based medicine to be licenced in the UK. Sativex is prescribed for Multiple Sclerosis and its symptoms such as pain, muscle spasms and sleep disturbance. The active ingredients are a 1 to 1 mix of CBD and THC.
Who are GW Pharmaceuticals?
Epidiolex and Sativex are both drugs made by GW Pharmaceuticals. Founded in 1988 and based in the UK, their strategy is to maintain a world-leading position in the field of Cannabinoid Science and Research.
They have developed an extensive international network of the most prominent scientists in the Cannabinoid field. GW’s focus is to bring Cannabinoid prescriptions to patients in areas of serious unmet needs; where these medicines have the potential to make a real difference to their quality of life.