While the debate over the efficacy of medical marijuana continues, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests it may be helpful in treating patients suffering from intractable seizures. Most recently, a study presented at the American Epilepsy Society meeting in Philadelphia found promising results.
The three month long trial involved 313 children afflicted with treatment-resistant seizures from 16 different epilepsy treatment centers across the country. Participants were given Epidiolex, an experimental CBD-based drug from GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: GWPH), although they continued to take their regular medication as well.
The age of participants varied, with some as young as four months old, the average age was 11 years old.
Approximately 84 percent of participants saw a reduction of grand mal seizures by approximately 50 percent on average. Speaking with NPR, Dr. Orrin Devinsky, lead author of the study, said that some participants even reported benefits.
“In the subsequent periods, which are very encouraging, 9 percent of all patients and 13 percent of those with Dravet Syndrome epilepsy were seizure-free. Many have never been seizure-free before,” Devinsky said.
But the drug did not work for everyone.
Approximately 16 percent of participants eventually withdrew from the study, reporting either adverse or no effects at all. Some of the side effects included diarrhea, fatigue and decreased appetite. Some even reported altered liver enzymes.
Despite the negative side effects experienced by some participants, researchers still find the results promising and hope to continue research. While the results were on the whole positive, there are several limitations in this study that must be taken into account.
Both researchers and the participants knew what medication was being administered, which can produce biased results. Furthermore, there was no control group to see if any kind of placebo effect was involved.
The only way to get completely accurate results is to conduct a double blind study, where both researchers and participants are unaware of what is administered. More clinical trials on Epidiolex are currently being conducted but it will be some time until they are completed.
Simply put: these results are by no means the final word, and as such should be taken with a grain of salt, albeit in a hopeful manner, until more trials can be conducted to support the evidence.
In the meantime, state legislatures across the country have already taken it upon themselves to approve the use of CBD-based medicines to help treat intractable seizures. In addition to the 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana, 15 other states have legalized use of CBD-only marijuana to treat seizures.