Cannabis-Derived Drug Reduces Seizure Frequency in Epileptic Children

A recent clinical trial has found that a drug containing cannabidiol reduces the frequency of seizures in children suffering from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

A cannabidiol (CBD)-based drug effectively reduces the frequency of seizures caused by Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a new clinical trial has found. Lennox-Gastaut syndrome is a rare and severe form of childhood epilepsy that is defined by different types of seizures that vary from child to child.

CBD is a natural, non-psychoactive compound found throughout the seeds, stalk, and flowers of cannabis plants, including hemp and marijuana.

In what was the drug’s second clinical trial, the oral CBD was shown to reduce seizures by 44 percent, compared to a 22 percent drop in those who were taking the placebo.

“From a physician’s perspective, the positive outcome in this trial of [the CBD medicine] in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome is very exciting. Lennox-Gastaut syndrome begins in early childhood, is particularly difficult to treat, and the vast majority of patients do not obtain an adequate response from existing therapies,” said Linda Laux, MD, Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and an investigator in the trial. “These data show that [the CBD medicine] has the potential to provide a robust and clinically meaningful reduction in seizures in this highly treatment-resistant population together with an acceptable safety and tolerability profile, which is consistent with my previous clinical experience with [the CBD medicine]. I am excited about the prospect of [the CBD medicine] being made available on prescription in the future and believe it has the potential to make an important difference to the lives of many patients.”

The study involved a total of 171 children, with the average patient experiencing 74 seizures that resulted in them hitting the floor each month. Eighty-six of the patients were given the CBD-based substance and 85 were given a placebo.

In addition to severe seizures, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome can cause frequent spasms, developmental delays, disturbed behavior, and a difficulty processing information. The syndrome shows onset between the ages of 3 and 5, and there is no cure for the condition.

“Lennox-Gastaut syndrome is such a difficult form of epilepsy to treat. Additional safe and effective treatments are desperately needed for patients who continue to struggle with uncontrolled seizures,” said Christina SanInocencio, Executive Director of the Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome Foundation. “We are thrilled with these positive results, which offer much needed hope and promise to those living with this debilitating condition.”

Some side effects were reported. Seventy-four of the 86 patients that received the medication experienced an “adverse event,” compared to 59 of the 85 patients receiving the placebo. Additionally, some patients experienced diarrhea, sleepiness, vomiting, and a decrease in appetite, though the scientists noted that most side effects were categorized as mild or moderate.

In the first clinical trial of a CBD-based drug for epilepsy, published in March, the substance proved to effectively reduce seizures in those with Dravet syndrome.

Dravet syndrome, or severe myoclonic epilepsy infancy (SMEI), is another severe type of epilepsy that affects 2 to 5 percent of children in North America and Europe. The condition is associated with a high frequency of seizures that can adversely affect language and motor skill development. Dravet syndrome typically causes febrile seizures, which are fever-related and triggered by slight body temperature changes. Like Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, there is no cure.

The findings of the two clinical trials coincide with previous research on CBD’s effects on epilepsy. Several studies have shown CBD to be a well-tolerated therapeutic treatment option for reducing seizures in childhood epilepsy disorders. CBD activates the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) of the body’s endocannabinoid system, which causes an overall reduction in neuronal excitability and inhibits the release of a particular neurotransmitter associated with the triggering of seizures. CBD has even shown to completely eliminate seizures in some studies.

More research into cannabinoids is necessary to continue to establish CBD’s therapeutic efficacy. The University of Nebraska Medical Center is close to launching a two-year study on CBD’s effects on epileptic patients in Nebraska between the ages of 1 and 60.

While CBD derived from marijuana is legal only in a limited number of states in the U.S., CBD oil derived that comes from hemp can be legally purchased in all 50 states. You can learn more about CBD from hemp oil on the Medical Marijuana, Inc.’s education page.