Neurologists’ perspectives on medical cannabis for pediatric drug-resistant epilepsy in Canada: A qualitative interview study.

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PURPOSE:

To understand the experiences with and perspectives of neurologists about the use of medical cannabis in the treatment of pediatric drug-resistant epilepsy.

METHODS:

In this qualitative study, we interviewed neurologists who provide care to children with drug-resistant epilepsy in Canada. Through semi-structured telephone interviews, we sought participants’ views about and experiences with medical cannabis for the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy in children. Here we present a thematic summary of the interviews.

RESULTS:

The 12 interviewed neurologists generally perceived medical cannabis as a viable treatment option for children with drug-resistant epilepsy; however, participants identified important gaps in the evidence and implications for their practices. Six themes were generated from the content of the interviews: learning about medical cannabis; perceptions about medical cannabis; discussing medical cannabis with parents; experiences with medical cannabis authorization; barriers to authorizing medical cannabis; and the impact of medical cannabis on clinical care. Of note, while some neurologists took on all aspects of the children’s care, including medical cannabis, others referred interested families to non-neurology health care professionals.

CONCLUSION:

Our findings highlight the diverse opinions and experiences of neurologists in Canada with medical cannabis for the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy in children, including with the authorization process and caring for children using medical cannabis. Additional education about medical cannabis may be warranted, in order to better prepare neurologists to have informed and open conversations with parents about this treatment option and to provide care for children using medical cannabis.

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