Cannabis compound could help treat rare epilepsy in children

Nurse holding young child's hand. NICE guidance on crysvita.
One in eight of five to 19-year-olds had a mental disorder in 2017, according to major new survey.

Cannabis derivative cannabidiol (CBD) has been found to cut the frequency of seizures in children with a rare and severe form of epilepsy, according to new research.

In the first large-scale clinical trial for the compound, CBD cut the frequency of seizures by 39% for patients with Dravet syndrome.

CBD is a compound within the cannabis plant that doesn’t contain the psychoactive properties that induce the high usually associated with cannabis. The study included Epidiolex, a liquid pharmaceutical formulation of CBD, which has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

120 children and young people with Dravet Syndrome between the ages of two and 18 years were randomised across 23 sites in the US and Europe to receive either CBD 20 mg/kg or a placebo added to their existing treatment, over a 14-week period.

The frequency of seizures was followed for a month prior to the study, and throughout the duration of the study.

The researchers found that, in the CBD-treated group, the frequency of seizures dropped by 39% from a median of almost 12 convulsive seizures per month before the study to around six. Seizures stopped completely in three study participants.

The placebo group showed a 13% reduction in seizures from around 15 per month to 14.

The researchers said that the degree of difference in seizure reduction between the CBD group and the placebo group was statistically significant and clinically consistent.

Lead investigator Professor Orrin Devinsky, of NYU Langone Medical Centre in the US, said: “Cannabidiol should not be viewed as a panacea for epilepsy, but for patients with especially severe forms who have not responded to numerous medications, these results provide hope that we may soon have another treatment option.”