WAVERLY | Cannabidiol is not technically Brandon Brase’s last option for treating his Crohn’s disease. It’s just that what’s left could be worse.
Brase, 31, a Waverly native now living in Webster City, recently started speaking out about the need to expand the state’s medicinal marijuana law to both make cannabidiol accessible and extend permission to use the drug for people with diseases besides intractable epilepsy.
“If they were able to pass a law last year to allow, you know, kids with epilepsy to use it, why not make it a usable drug for not only more people … but also make it a usable law that we can actually get it in our hands?” Brase asks.
Since being diagnosed with Crohn’s in his mid-20s, Brase has gone through nearly all of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved drugs available to treat his condition after building up antibodies to all the treatment options.
He is waiting for insurance approval for his final FDA-approved option. Brase expects to build up antibodies to that drug eventually, if he uses it.
“It’s the only option I have left,” he said.
After that, he would face surgical removal of portions of his intestines. He’s already had one such surgery. Further removals could lead to him being unable to work, unable to care for his two children and being heavily medicated for the rest of his life.
Brase shared his story at an Iowa Senate hearing last week. Senators heard stories of suffering and the need for an expansion of cannabidiol -- a medical component of marijuana often distributed in oil form -- from Iowans with various medical conditions.
A bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate this week that would open new avenues for medicinal marijuana in the state, but it could prove difficult to pass. Any proposed legislation related to cannabidiol is unlikely to get through the House.
Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, said the House Republican caucus went a long way to pass what it did last year.
“I don’t see a lot of traction to go any further,” Rogers said, adding that a study is underway that could lead to FDA approval of cannabidiol to treat epilepsy as early as next year, which would bypass the need for additional legislation for epileptic Iowans.
Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, hasn’t ruled out passing another law but is cautious about unintended consequences of expanding cannabidiol legislation. The current law makes it legal to possess -- but does not provide a way to access -- the drug’s medicinal oil form for Iowans with intractable epilepsy.
Despite the uphill battle, Brase continues to fight.
“There’s a lot of people in Iowa suffering, and I don’t think politics should play a part in people’s health and well-being,” Brase said. “I just encourage people to contact their lawmakers and really ask them where they stand on it and ask for their support in passing a bill.”
Brase makes clear his only interest is in expanding the usage of marijuana for medicinal purposes, not recreational use.
Twenty states have medicinal marijuana laws. Brase said if he lived in Minnesota, which is readying a law to provide access to the drug by July 1, doctors he has seen at the Mayo Clinic would prescribe it.
An Israeli study has shown “significant symptomatic improvement” in Crohn’s patients from inhaled cannabis. Patients are being sought for a study to test treatment possibilities from an oil form of the drug.
Other studies have shown cannabinoids may protect against inflammation of the colon.
Though other methods of treatment also are being studied, Brase thinks cannabidiol is less costly and has fewer side effects.
“Every drug I’ve been on has come along with side effects -- anything from liver damage, to it increases the chances of cancer tremendously. The newest one, Entyvio, comes with the side effect of possible brain infection,” Brase said.
Not to mention the high cost and inconvenience. He’s currently not taking anything to treat his Crohn’s as he awaits approval for Entyvio.
“I can go on and on, I guess. It’s an option I would like to have,” Brase said of cannabidiol.