Severe epilepsy in children may be treated with a medicine derived from marijuana, according to a new study.
The medicine – which is undergoing clinical trials in the United States, as well as other places – is a liquid form of cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabidiol is one of the many active cannabinoids found in cannabis.
In one of the studies – presented December 7 at the meeting of the American Epilepsy Society in Philadelphia – the researchers gave the medicine called Epidiolex (liquid form of pure plant-derived cannabidiol (CBD) to 261 people with severe epilepsy ages 4 months to 41 years. Most of the participants in the study were children with an average age of 11.
By the end of the three-month study, people’s seizures were reduced by an average of about 45 percent. For 47 percent of the participants, the frequency of seizures was reduced by half, and nine percent of the participants stopped having seizures altogether.
Although most of the results were good, 12 percent of the study participants stopped taking Epidiolex during the study as it did nothing to improve their symptoms. The medicine triggered side effects in five percent of the participants who had diarrhoea and altered levels of liver enzymes, the researchers said.
Dr. Orrin Devinsky, lead author of the study and director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, said that the results of the new study are encouraging when it comes to both the effectiveness and safety of Epidiolex.
In another study that was also presented at the American Epilepsy Society conference, the researchers administered the medicine to 24 children ages 9 (on average) with epilepsy, over a one-year period.
By the end of the study, for 40 percent (10 kids) of the children the frequency of seizures was reduced by 50 percent or more, and one of seven participants in the study who suffered from Dravet syndrome – a rare form of epilepsy also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI) – had no more seizures.
Of the 24 children, 12 (48 percent) had to stop taking the medicine, because it did not work for them. One child stopped taking Epidiolex because, as he was taking the medicine, his seizures got a lot more frequent.
However, Dr. Scott Stevens, a neurologist at North Shore-LIJ Health System’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Center in Great Neck, New York, said that, for now, small studies on the use of CBD in treating epilepsy should be viewed with a little bit of scepticism, because they were ‘open-label’ studies.
Image Source: hightimes