Cannabidiol Oral Solution Studied in Drug-Resistant Seizures

Dravet syndrome is considered a rare genetic form of epilepsy, seizures typically begin in thefirst year of life.

The study is one of the first of its kind to rigorously test the benefits and pitfalls of this compound of cannabis on epilepsy patients.

Marijuana, on the other hand, is a highly charged issue, with medicinal cannabis still illegal in many U.S. jurisdictions.

Additionally, 5 percent of the group who received cannabidiol treatments saw their seizures disappear completely, compared to 0 percent in the placebo group, STAT reports. Although cannabis has been used for centuries to treat those with seizures, it was prohibited in the 20th century.

"The frequency of total seizures of all types was significantly reduced with cannabidiol (P=0.03), but there was no significant reduction in nonconvulsive seizures" reported lead author Orrin Devinsky, MD.

Yet, this doesn't stop it from being a "hot-button issue".

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is derived from cannabis plants, but does not cause users to get high.

Prior to the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the number of seizures per month for a single patient ranged from four to 1,717, with an average frequency at around 12 seizures.

"We will need more data to determine the long-term efficacy and safety of cannabidiol for Dravet syndrome", says Laux, who is the Medical Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Lurie Children's and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Results from this study represent the only well-controlled clinical evaluation of a cannabinoid medication for this devastating and drug-resistant condition. With the marijuana extract, the frequency of seizures decreased to six per month.

Moreover, 5% of patients in the cannabidiol group became seizure-free vs. 0% in the placebo group (P=0.08). "Our results are encouraging, especially considering that we don't have any antiepileptic drugs approved for Dravet syndrome in the U.S". The treatment was associated with various side effects including fever, sleepiness, diarrhea, and abnormal liver function, according to the study.

There's already evidence that pot's useful in treating epilepsy, but more evidence could help with rescheduling the drug - the final step toward medicinal use at a federal level.

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