June 29 2017

Marijuana extract helps some kids with epilepsy, study says

June 29 2017, 12:20 | Irvin Gilbert

Marijuana Extract Reduces Seizures in Kids with Rare Disorder

Cannabidiol a medicine made out of cannabis but with the psycho-active elements removed halved the seizures suffered by children with a severe form of epilepsy

Over 2016, GW Pharmaceuticals, which funds research into cannabidiol (CBD) and Dravet syndrome, announced positive results from two clinical trials-including the preliminary results of a Phase III trial that showed children with Dravet syndrome treated with CBD had fewer seizures than those given a placebo.

Three patients' seizures stopped entirely.

Scientists have been investigating marijuana's potential for treating Dravet syndrome for many years. Future research will also be needed to confirm these results, as well as determine whether CBD can have similar effects in other forms of epilepsy.

Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological condition in the world, affecting more than 65 million people globally, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

The Clinical Global Impressions (CGI) Scale allows a clinician to quantify and track patient progress and treatment response over time.

"Up to 20 percent of these children will die by age 20 due to their epilepsy".

Researchers from New York University (NYU) - led by Dr. Orrin Devinsky, professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry, as well as director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone Medical Center - set out to examine the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on Dravet syndrome.

"This study is significant because it is the first scientific clinical evidence we have of an effect of a plant-derived cannabinoid therapeutic medication on epilepsy". Participants took a teaspoon of oil twice a day (drug or placebo) in addition to their conventional anti-seizure medication for 14 weeks.

CBD oil seems to reduce the frequency of seizures in children suffering from a rare form of epilepsy.

Over the 14-week treatment period, patients taking Epidiolex had a significantly greater median reduction in convulsive seizures (39 percent) contrast to placebo (13 percent).

Overall, the drug was able to improve patients' conditions and helped more individuals become seizure-free than placebo.

But it is thought that while the drug alleviates symptoms as long as it is being taken, it does not offer a cure. After the trial caregivers of participants in both the placebo and experimental groups were given the option of continuing treatment with cannabidiol in what is called an open-label extension of the study.

But she said other families may feel afraid because "they still can't, for the most part, get access to a legal product right now". Cross at a news briefing in London.

"Until now, there has only been anecdotal evidence but now we have scientific evidence proving that cannabidiol is definitely effective in severe epilepsy".

Most patients reported side effects, most commonly vomiting, fatigue and fever.

Side effects - experienced by 93.4 per cent of patients in the BCD group and 74.6 per cent of those treated with placebo - were generally reported as mild or moderate in severity.

McCoy noted that a THC-CBD combination product is what's available in Canada, so it's what patients here are using.

Dr Peter Steer, chief executive officer of Great Ormond Street Hospital said: 'The importance of this research can not be under-estimated.

GW already markets Sativex (nabiximols) in multiple sclerosis spasticity, but a failed attempt to get this drug approved in cancer pain have meant sales have fallen short of expectations.

GW's medicine, which is given as a syrup, is a purified form of cannabidiol, one of the active ingredients found in marijuana.

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