BY SARAH OWENS
Children with a rare and devastating form of epilepsy may have a new treatment option: cannabidiol, a non-hallucinogenic, pharmaceutical-grade compound derived from cannabis. It reduced the frequency of seizures in children with Dravet syndrome, according to a study published May 25 in The New England Journal of Medicine.
A Lack of Treatment Options
Dravet syndrome, a rare, catastrophic, and often fatal form of childhood epilepsy caused by a genetic mutation, is resistant to antiseizure medications.
Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from cannabis that contains none of the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been shown in preliminary trials to be effective in reducing the severity and frequency of seizures for other forms of epilepsy, such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. To see if CBD was effective for children with Dravet syndrome, researchers conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
Testing CBD's Effects
A total of 120 children diagnosed with Dravet syndrome were randomly assigned to receive a daily dose of CBD (20 mg per kilogram of body weight) or a placebo dose for 14 weeks. The researchers measured how many and what type of seizures children in both groups experienced, including non-convulsive seizures (for example, staring spells) and the more dangerous convulsive seizures.
A Clear Benefit for CBD
The average number of convulsive seizures in children who received CBD decreased from 12.4 to 5.9, compared to 14.9 to 14.1 among children in the placebo group. In the CBD group, 43 percent of children had their convulsive seizures reduced by half or more, compared to just 27 percent of kids in the placebo group. There was no difference between the groups in the frequency of non-convulsive seizures, leading researchers to believe CBD targets the mechanisms in the brain that cause convulsive seizures only.
Children who received CBD experienced a higher rate of adverse events, including diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, sleepiness, and higher-than-normal levels of liver enzymes, which can indicate abnormal liver function.
The study authors believe CBD may be a promising new treatment for children with Dravet syndrome, but only after its benefit has been confirmed in long-term trials.
For more information on the benefits of medical marijuana and its derivatives for different neurologic conditions, click here: bit.ly/NN-MedicalMarijuana.