Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound from the cannabis plant has been gaining much attention lately in medical research. A recent randomized, controlled trial showed that low doses of cannabidiol could significantly reduce the number of serious seizures in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome - a severe form of epilepsy.// In the new study comparing two doses of CBD to a placebo, the researchers reported a 41.9 percent reduction in "drop seizures" - a type of seizure that results in severe loss of muscle control and balance - in patients taking a 20 mg/kg/d CBD regimen, a 37.2 percent reduction in those on a 10 mg/kg/d CBD regimen, and a 17.2 percent reduction in a group given a placebo.
‘A recent study on cannabidiol for treatment of severe seizures in epileptic patients, showed significant results, which were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.’The phase III trial was led by principal investigator and study first co-author Orrin Devinsky, MD, a professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine and director of NYU Langone's Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, and was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
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"This new study adds rigorous evidence of cannabidiol's effectiveness in reducing seizure burden in a severe form of epilepsy and, importantly, is the first study of its kind to offer more information on proper dosing," says Dr. Devinsky. "These are real medications with real side effects, and as providers we need to know all we can about a potential treatment in order to provide safe and effective care to our patients."
The study included an investigational liquid, oral formulation of CBD called Epidiolex. The product is manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, which operates in the U.S. as Greenwich Biosciences; GW Pharmaceuticals funded the clinical trial.
Safety of Two CBD Doses Studied
Lennox-Gastaut syndrome is a rare and severe form of epilepsy characterized by frequent drop seizures and severe cognitive impairment. Six medications are approved to treat seizures in patients with the syndrome, but disabling seizures occur in most patients despite these treatments.
Side effects occurred in 94 per of patients in the 20 mg CBD group, 84 percent in the 10 mg CBD group, and 72 percent of those taking placebo. Side effects were generally reported as mild or moderate in severity and those that occurred in more than 10 percent of patients included: sleepiness, decreased appetite, diarrhea, upper respiratory infection, fever, vomiting, nasopharyngitis, and status epilepticus. Fourteen patients taking CBD experienced dose-related, elevated liver enzymes that were reversible. Seven participants from the CBD group withdrew from the trial due to side effects compared to one participant in the placebo group.
A study led by Dr. Devinsky published in last May's New England Journal of Medicine showed a 39 percent drop in seizure frequency in patients with a different rare form of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome. Those findings represented the first large-scale, randomized clinical trial for the compound. Open label CBD studies led by Dr. Devinsky also have shown positive results for treatment-resistant epilepsies.
In April, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel unanimously voted to recommend approval of a new drug application for Epidiolex cannabidiol oral solution, following a meeting where researchers, including Dr. Devinsky, presented their findings. The FDA will decide whether to approve the medication in late June.
"While the news gives hope for a new treatment option to the epilepsy community, more research remains imperative to better determine the effects of CBD and other similar cannabis-derived compounds on other forms of the disease and in more dosing regimens," says Dr. Devinsky.