15-04-2015 | US trial shows promise for epilepsy from the use of liquid medical marijuana

Early results from a US trial of the cannabidiol (CBD) cannabis-based drug show promise for those with severe forms of epilepsy. After 12 weeks, half of the children involved with either Dravet Syndrome or Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, had on average a 50% reduction in seizures. The data is however preliminary and one important point is that the study was 'open label' meaning that there may have been a higher than normal placebo effect.

Children with two of the most severe forms of epilepsy can have numerous seizures each day, as well as long-term physical and cognitive problems. The two syndromes Dravet or Lennox Gastaut are quite rare but unfortunately very resistant to treatment with current epilepsy drugs.

The study included 213 child and adults with 12 different types of severe epilepsy; the trail was completed by 137 people. The participants were given a 99% pure liquid version of cannabidiol, the marijuana plant's psychoactive ingredient (THC) was removed, for 3 to 6 months. Most of the trails participants were children who before the trial experienced 95.3 convulsive seizures each month. 

After 12 weeks, 51% of the children saw at least a 50% reduction in the number of seizures they experienced. The number of all seizures fell by an average of 54%. Among the 23 individuals with Dravet syndrome who completed the study, their number of convulsive seizures fell by 53%. The 11 patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome who finished the study had a 55% decrease in the number of attacks called "atonic" seizures, which cause a sudden loss of muscle tone. 9% of the trial participants, and 16% of those with Dravet syndrome, experienced no seizures after three months.

Cannabidiol proved in some instance to be difficult to take, 12 participants stopped taking it due to side effects, 21% experienced drowsiness, 17% got diarrhoea, 17% experienced tiredness and a further 16% lost their appetites.

The trails findings are scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Washington, D.C. Generally findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

You can read Epilepsy Irelands' statement on the use of cannabis in the treatment of epilepsy here.


The Washington Post