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Published in the December issue of Epilepsy & Behavior, the survey compiled responses from 18 parents who had turned to CBD (cannabidiol)-rich cannabis extract to treat their child’s severe epilepsy.
Of those surveyed, 83% indicated a reduction in their child’s seizure frequency. Parents reported little to no side-effects of cannabis treatment, and, in some cases, a reduction in seizure frequency of up to 80%.
Thirteen of the children suffered from Dravet syndrome, four had Doose syndrome, one had Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and one had idiopathic epilepsy.
The study was led by postdoctoral fellow Catherine Jacobson, PhD, who believes in spite of the study’s obvious weaknesses, that the results still support CBD-rich cannabis as an effective epilepsy medicine.
“Even given the caveats of the study, which are big, I believe that CBD will work for some children that are currently still seizing despite their trials of available anti-seizure drugs.”
Dr. Jacobson says she was inspired to conduct the study by her own search for a treatment that could help her epileptic son. After hearing that some parents were having success using CBD-rich cannabis, she reviewed the literature and found research dating back to the 1970s that supported the anecdotes.
And while medical marijuana is legal in her home state of California, Dr. Jacobson believes that more research needs to be done in order for CBD to be widely accepted and available.
“Now the work begins, though, to find out which types of epilepsy it’s going to help, how CBD interacts with other anti-seizure drugs, and what really are the side-effects?”
CBD remains strictly prohibited as a Schedule I drug, making it difficult for parents in many states to access the treatment. However, significant progress has been made in the past year towards achieving federal recognition of CBD as a medicine.
In fact, Dr. Jacobson is now part of a team at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) that is leading clinical investigations on a high-grade CBD extract developed by GW Pharmaceuticals.
Just last month, the company announced that it had received FDA approval to begin experimental treatments with the new drug, Epidiolex, in epileptic children.
Research is being led by Roberta Cilio, MD, PhD at UCSF and Orrin Devinsky, MD at the NYU School of Medicine, and initial results are expected early next year.