A recent study has shown that a liquid extract of marijuana can be a potential treatment for children with severe epilepsy who are not responding to other treatments. This study was presented at the 2015 American Academy of Neurology’s 67th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.
The study involved 213 subjects from toddlers to adults. The average age of the subjects was 11 and they all had severe epilepsy that did not respond to other treatments. The subjects had medical conditions such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome; these are epilepsy types with intellectual disability and lifelong seizures.
All the participants in this study were given the drug cannabidiol, a component of marijuana that does not include the psychoactive part of the plant that creates a “high.” This drug was ingested as a liquid extract every day. Then the researchers checked whether the drug was safe and well-tolerated.
The number of seizures was also recorded while the subjects were using the drug. The results showed that in 137 people who have completed the 12-week study, the frequency of seizures dropped by an average of 54% from the start of the study until the end. In 23 subjects with Dravet syndrome who completed the study, convulsive seizures went down by 53% at the end of the study. In 11 people with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome who completed the study, there was a 55% decrease in the frequency of atonic seizures (those associated with a sudden loss of muscle tone).
Around 12 subjects or 6% stopped taking the drug due to its side effects. The side effects that were observed during the course of the study which occurred in more than 10% of participants included drowsiness (21%), diarrhea (17%), tiredness or fatigue (17%) and decreased appetite (16%).
The study author, Orrin Devinsky, MD, of New York University Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, commented that these are early findings and that larger, double blinded clinical trials are needed to further test out the safety and efficacy of the drug. According to him, “So far there have been few formal studies on this marijuana extract. These results are of great interest, especially for the children and their parents who have been searching for an answer for these debilitating seizures.”
The study was done with the aid of GW Pharmaceuticals.
American Academy of Neurology (AAN). (2015, April 13). Medical marijuana liquid extract may bring hope for children with severe epilepsy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150413183743.htm