Cannabidiol show success in Dravet syndrome

Posted May 30 2017 in Other treatments

Please note that Epilepsy Research UK does not endorse/promote individual epilepsy treatments or pharmaceutical companies.

According to a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial*, cannabidiol (CBD) reduces seizure frequency in children with Dravet syndrome – a highly complex epilepsy disorder associated with drug-resistant seizures. The findings are published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

CBD is a chemical found in the cannabis sativa plant, and it is not psycho-active (it doesn’t produce ‘highs’). Previous research has shown that CBD may be beneficial in reducing seizure frequency in a number of epilepsy syndromes and trials are on-going.

During the current study, based in New York and Chicago, 120 children and young adults with Dravet syndrome and drug-resistant seizures were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Group one received a daily oral solution of CBD in addition to their standard treatment, whilst group two were given a placebo (a fake treatment) in addition to their standard treatment. The researchers recorded the frequency of convulsive seizures in each participant before the start of treatment and 14 weeks later, to see if there was any change. They were also interested in any side effects experienced by the participants.

The team found that, after 14 weeks of treatment, the rate of convulsive seizures in the CBD group fell from an average of 12.4 per month to 5.9 per month. In comparison, seizures in the placebo group decreased from an average of 14.9 per month to 14.1 per month.

Unwanted side effects were reported by 93% of people taking CBD, compared with 75% of those in the placebo group. The most common side effects were drowsiness, diarrhoea and decreased appetite.

Co-authour, Linda Laux, at Ann &Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, comments:

“Our results are encouraging, especially considering that we don’t have any antiepileptic drugs approved for Dravet syndrome in the US.”

“We will need more data to determine the long-term efficacy and safety of cannabidiol for Dravet syndrome.”

This study was funded by GW Pharmaceuticals.

* This is a trial of a medical treatment in which some of the participants are given the active treatment and others are given a ‘fake’ treatment (a placebo) that looks identical. Neither the investigators nor the participants know who has been allocated to which treatment, and therefore they are both ‘blind’. This is the gold standard of clinical trials.

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