For kids with severe forms of epilepsy, changes in medication levels can be extremely dangerous. “If their levels go low, they’re at increased risk of seizures, which could lead to an emergency room visit or an ICU stay,” Knupp said. “On the other hand, if their levels go high, their side effects can increase dramatically.” Side effects from epilepsy medications can range anywhere from drowsiness to vomiting to heart arrhythmia, Knupp noted. “For some people that could mean a minor inconvenience, but for some patients it could be life-threatening.”
Dr. Ethan Russo, medical director at Phytecs, a biotechnology company spearheading research into plant- based medicines and the endocannabinoid system, took issue with Titus’s claim, however. “Bioaccumulators can recruit heavy metals from the soil,” Russo said, “but breaking them down would be alchemy.” Government regulation of the pharmaceutical industry is designed to protect consumers from unfounded scientific claims.
I had come to meet Dr. Angel Hernandez, the director of the hospital’s pediatric epilepsy program. A trail of wall-mounted signs led me to the pediatric neurology ward, a bright and airy space with flat-screen TVs running cartoons nonstop. Decorative kites were strung up in the corridors, and rainbow curtains lined the windows. Some of the kids in the waiting area that morning were alert and awake, others groggy. Some were strapped into special strollers designed for children with mobility problems, and some had shaven heads and healing scars. Hernandez came out to greet me, and I was surprised he recognized me after what felt like a very long time. He had diagnosed me with epilepsy in 2004 and treated me for several years.
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