UK clinical trials underway for anti-epileptic cannabinoid

UK clinical trials are reportedly underway to test the safety of a potential new anti-epileptic therapy, GWP42006 – a drug derived from specific chemotypes of the cannabis plant.

This follows a five-year pre-clinical research programme, undertaken at the University of Reading in collaboration with drug company GW Pharmaceuticals, which identified GWP42006 as “one of the most promising” cannabinoids that might be used to treat epilepsy.

Interest in cannabis-derived treatment for the condition has grown significantly over the last few months, particularly among paediatric epilepsy specialists in the US. In many instances, these physicians have hailed certain cannabinoids – notably cannabidiol – as successful in treating otherwise refractory childhood epilepsies.

This has resulted in the Food and Drug Administration granting several expanded access Investigational New Drug applications to clinicians, allowing them to trial cannabinoid therapies in a small number of children with epilepsy.

In the UK, meanwhile, GW Pharmaceuticals has described the progression of GWP42006 to Phase 1 clinical trial as “a significant milestone”.

The drug, which is non-psychoactive, is said not only to suppress seizures but to do so without causing documented side effects.

Dr Ben Whalley, senior lecturer in pharmacology at the Reading School of Pharmacy, commented that it not only “exerts significant anticonvulsant effects in a wide range of preclinical models of seizure and epilepsy” but is also “better tolerated” than many currently approved anti-epileptic therapies.

“It is also noteworthy that GWP42006 appears to employ a different mechanism of action to currently available anti-epileptic treatments,” he added.

“Together, these findings fully support the exciting clinical development that is now underway and represent an important step towards a more effective and better tolerated treatment for epilepsy.”

Dr Stephen Wright, director of research and development at GW Pharmaceuticals, meanwhile, said he believed GWP42006 has the potential to “become an important advance” in the treatment of epilepsy – meeting a “substantial unmet need”.

Drug therapy is thought to be ineffective in as many as 30 per cent of all epilepsy patients, either on account of not controlling seizures or leading to adverse side effects.

Posted by Steve Long

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