Medical cannabis may cut seizures in half in epilepsy patients

Modesto Morganelli
Aprile 20, 2017

The medicine reduced her seizures to just two or three per months, down from about 300 per week.

A molecule extracted from the cannabis plant and tested as treatment for hard-to-treat epilepsy has shown promising results.

GW Pharmaceuticals' liquid oral formulation of cannabidiol (CBD), called Epidiolex, is one of 500 compounds found in cannabis.

In 2014, the story of Charlotte Figi, a six-year-old from Colorado who suffered from Dravet syndrome (another severe form of childhood epilepsy) was widely reported. He directs the division of epilepsy at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

The new study was led by Dr. Anup Patel, of Nationwide Children's Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus. Here, participants had an average age of 16 but patients don't normally make it to adulthood, so it's possible that they are not entirely representative.

Researchers followed 225 patients with LGS and an average age of 16 for 14 weeks. They had already tried an average of 6 epilepsy drugs that were unsuccessful, and they were taking an average of 3 epilepsy drugs during the study. Participants were given either a higher dose of 20 mg of daily cannabidiol, a lower dose of 10 mg of daily cannabidiol or a placebo in addition to their regular seizure medication.

But in the study, patients on a high dose of cannabidiol found their drop seizures reduced by 42 percent; on a lower dose, the seizures reduced by 37 percent.

Participants taking the placebo had a 17 percent reduction in drop seizures and 15 percent had seizures reduced by half or more.

Side effects were more common in the higher dose groups, with 94 percent compared to 72 percent in those taking the placebo, but most were mild to moderate. Patients who received cannabidiol were up to 2.6 times more likely to report that their overall condition had improved compared with patients who received the placebo, with up to 66% reporting improvement compared to 44% in the placebo arm.

The latest study on the subject is presented at American Academy of Neurology's 69th Annual Meeting in Boston this week. Taking an oil-form of cannabidiol cut down seizures by half in some people suffering from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of the disease. While there were more side effects for those taking cannabidiol, they were mostly well tolerated. Cannabidiol is not a psychoactive substance and does not have intoxicating effects. "Further details and studies about safety will need to be disclosed, but it does appear that cannabidiol will be another reasonable treatment option".

They also tout a study published last month that concluded cannabis oil can reduce seizure frequency in people with refractory epilepsy. They regularly experience different types of seizures on a daily basis, often also have learning impairments, and most drugs do little to help.

The researchers concluded that "cannabidiol shows great promise in that it may reduce seizures that are otherwise hard to control". In the United States, GW operates as Greenwich Biosciences Inc.

The researchers plan to submit a New Drug Application later this year to the U.S. Food and Drug and Administration (FDA), proposing cannabidiol as a treatment for LGS.

Neurological disorders can be hard to treat, and among these epilepsy is one of the most common worldwide. Our role as an independent, fact-based news organization has never been clearer. The response, in a word, is heartening. And our promise to you is that we will always strive to provide indispensable journalism to our community.

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