Houston Area Pediatric Specialists

Independent pediatric specialists aim to serve our community. We want to share news and analysis regarding our specialties and our practices.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sixth-grader dies from asthma complications, no school nurse on duty

Sixth-grader dies from asthma complications, no school nurse on duty

The father of sixth-grader Laporshia Massey says that she died from asthma complications that went untreated while she was at Bryant Elementary School in Philadelphia on the afternoon of Sept. 25.
According to Daniel Burch, he rushed Massey to the emergency room as soon as she got home from school, but it wasn’t soon enough. She collapsed in the car on the way to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she later passed away.
Burch did receive a call from someone who he assumed to be a nurse during the day alerting him that his daughter was feeling ill, but neither he, nor his fianceƩ, Sherri Mitchell, realized the seriousness of the situation.
Whoever called Burch and Mitchell, it wasn’t a nurse. Bryant Elementary School only has a nurse on staff two days a week and Sept. 25 was not one of those days.
Burch believes that a trained professional would have seen the danger. "Why," he asked, "didn’t [the school] take her to the hospital? If she had problems throughout the day, why … didn’t [the school] call me sooner?"
A source within the School District of Philadelphia believes that Laporshia’s life could have been saved. "If they had called rescue, she would still be here today," the source said. "They told her school was almost out, and she’d get out of school and go straight home. She went to the teacher, who told her ‘there’s no nurse' and just to 'be calm.'"
Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, believes the shortage of nurses is dangerous.
"We will never know whether or not having had a full-time nurse in the building would of been able to save her life. But what we do know is that there was not a nurse at the time of her illness to -- based on the training nurses have -- determine whether or not the child was in crisis, and seek medical attention from a hospital," Jordan said.

Read article here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


There is NO data to support using marijuana for epilepsy. And its illegal. 

Anecdotes are interesting. 

Observation is the basis for medical progress, after all.  But there is a 13% placebo response rate in epilepsy trials. -  JR

From the AES....


Nearly 3 million people in the United States live with epilepsy, a neurological problem that includes recurring seizures. While 6 in 10 people with epilepsy may respond to medical treatment, over 1 million people live with uncontrolled seizures. Some of these people may be helped by surgery or other non-drug treatments, but for many, no answers have been found yet. People with uncontrolled epilepsy live with the continued risk of seizures, side effects of medication, injuries and other medical problems.
Recently CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, hosted a special report on medical marijuana. One of the families profiled was the Figis of Colorado. Their daughter, Charlotte, lives with Dravet Syndrome – a rare and severe form of epilepsy with seizures that cannot be controlled by medication. Matt and Paige Figi, after many failed treatments, turned to medical marijuana as a potential treatment for their 5-year-old daughter. The Epilepsy Foundation is excited to hear the results for Charlotte were very positive.
The Epilepsy Foundation is open and committed to exploring and advocating for all potential treatment options for epilepsy -- assuming they are proven safe and effective. This includes medical marijuana (cannabis). However, research into medical marijuana and seizure control is not complete. We are in favor of research that evaluates cannabis's effectiveness so as to better inform and help the millions of individuals who live with epilepsy. We need to help the many children and adults with epilepsy who have no other options but to resort to cannabis.
What to do about the medical use of marijuana (cannabis) as a potential treatment for a number of neurologic conditions, including epilepsy, is a hotly debated issue. There are legal issues surrounding its dispensing and prescription, as well as a lack of scientific research on the usefulness and safety of marijuana as a treatment for seizures. Here are four commonly asked questions about this dilemma:
Does marijuana help seizures?
Evidence from laboratory studies, anecdotal reports, and a small clinical study from a number of years ago suggests that cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound of cannabis, could potentially be helpful in controlling seizures. However, there are conflicting reports in the literature. So far, no clear, definitive, solid evidence exists to show marijuana helps seizures.
Does marijuana have side effects on seizures?
Marijuana has a number of effects depending on how it is ingested:
  • If smoked, the risk factors associated with smoking apply to marijuana.
  • If one takes marijuana preparations that are not smoked, side effects are similar to ones that would be seen with inhaled varieties of the drug. These include appetite stimulation and memory problems.
  • It is difficult to assess the adverse effects of the drug since there is no controlled amount of the medication that has been studied. Therefore, other side effects could occur that are simply not known yet to practicing physicians.
What are the laws governing medical marijuana?
A number of states in the U.S. have statutes allowing for dispensation and prescription of this substance. However, the federal government also has a law that is contradictory and fundamentally criminalizes its use. Therefore, if physicians choose to follow the state laws on the medical use of marijuana, it does not guarantee that they will be immunized against federal prosecution for prescribing the medication if the federal government were to decide to enforce these laws. Therefore, physicians must be aware of both federal and state laws and the potential implications. A clearer understanding of the laws governing this issue is needed.
Should one pursue medical marijuana if all other medications do not work?
The goal of epilepsy treatment is to stop seizures with minimal or no side effects. There are receptors in the brain for marijuana, otherwise known as cannabinoid receptors, in areas that are commonly known to cause seizures (such as the hippocampus and amygdala). There is very little understanding as to what roles these receptors play in seizures. Given the legal issues, the lack of clarity on side effects, and risks associated with the use of the medication, there are better options one could try for epilepsy before resorting to marijuana.
Perhaps a clinical drug trial for a new medication or alternatively a new device may be more appropriate and—to some degree— a bit safer. For new medicines or devices, there are federal governing agencies monitoring the safety of the compound and/or device.
To date, there is very little to no monitoring of street-based marijuana. Therefore, one takes risks into their own hands and sometimes this can lead to terrible consequences. But since medical marijuana is now legal in many states, suppliers are working hard to develop dependable branded product, even mixes carefully controlled to offer specific percentages of THC or CBD.
The Epilepsy Foundation supports research on the potential antiepileptic effects of CBD or other marijuana.  While there is experimental evidence that CBD can work to stop seizures in animal models and that there are reports that it may be effective in patients with epilepsy, there is a lack of scientific data in humans.  The Epilepsy Foundation urges anyone exploring  epilepsy treatments, as permitted under their state law, to work with their treating physician to make the best decisions for their own care
More about the studies on marijuana and epilepsy:
There are current ongoing trials involving cannabis for epilepsy such as one at NYU which is sponsored by the Epilepsy Foundation.
While there are no studies finding that either marijuana or its active metabolite, tetrahydrocannabinol, may worsen seizures, there is no scientific basis to justify such studies.
One case-controlled study was designed to evaluate illicit drug use and the risk of a first seizure. Investigators concluded that marijuana is protective against the first-time seizure in men but not women.
  • This study compared 308 individuals who had been admitted to a hospital after their first seizure with a control group of 294 patients. The control group was made up of patients who had not had seizures and were admitted for emergency surgery such as appendicitis, etc.
  • Compared to men who did not use marijuana, the odds of a first seizure for men who had used marijuana within 90 days of hospital admission were roughly 3.6 out of 10.
  • The results for women were not statistically significant. Nevertheless, the study was weak, because it did not include measures of health status prior to hospital admission for the patients' serious conditions.
The potential anti-epilepsy activity of marijuana and its metabolites has been investigated, but so far, the data has not been promising.
  • There have been 3 controlled trials in which marijuana substances were given orally to patients who had had generalized grand mal seizures or focal seizures. These studies were small and the largest study involved 12 patients. One study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which 8 patients with epilepsy were given marijuana in addition to their standard therapy. Another was a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which 12 patients with epilepsy were given marijuana along with their standard anti-epileptic therapy, and then a third one was a double-blind, placebo-controlled add-on crossover trial with 10 patients.
  • In two of the studies, marijuana had no effect on seizure frequency; however, in one of the studies, four of eight patients had significant improvement.
  • Two of the studies were never published and one was presented as an abstract. The studies are so small that one cannot make any definite conclusion about the effect of marijuana as a seizure treatment.