Cannabidiol as a New Treatment for Rare Forms of Epilepsy

New research shows that cannabidiol (CBD) can treat therapy refractory epileptic encephalopathies.

Epilepsy is a chronic neurologic disorder characterized by a predisposition to seizures, with a prevalence of 8.5 per 1,000 people in the United States. It is the fourth most common neurological condition after migraines, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome are two forms of severe epileptic syndromes. Seizures in affected individuals usually occur combined generalized and focal simultaneously. These specific epileptic conditions are typically refractory to therapy, and their pediatric-onset and high mortality constitute a substantial and devastating impact on the lives of patients and their families.

CBD Could Be Safe for Managing Epileptic Syndromes

A recent review of clinical trials concluded that cannabidiol could be a safe and effective treatment for managing these epileptic syndromes.

Traditional therapy options include antiepileptic drugs or invasive medical interventions such as vagal nerve stimulation and surgery. Treatment failure is common and leaves patients, families, and clinicians desperate for alternatives.

Pure, pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol exhibits clinically significant antiseizure properties, with a hypothesized multimodal mechanism of action. In addition, cannabidiol lacks intoxicating properties while showing potent pharmacological properties, making it an attractive alternative for treatment.

CBD Shown to Reduce Seizures

One of the pivotal trials, the “GWPCARE 1,” was a prospective, multicenter, multinational, double-blind, placebo-controlled study assessing cannabidiol effects in a cohort of 61 patients. The primary outcome was the convulsive seizure frequency change.

Data from the additional “GWPCARE” trials suggest that cannabidiol has good efficacy in reducing the frequencies of seizures in both the Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome by up to 23% compared to a control arm based on standard antiepileptic drugs therapy combined with a placebo. The most frequently observed adverse treatment effects are primarily gastrointestinal-related, including diarrhea, vomiting, decreased appetite, and drowsiness.

This work shows a significant reduction of seizures with cannabidiol as an adjunct to standard antiepileptic therapies in patients with rare epileptic disorders.

CBD as a Therapy Option

The addition of cannabidiol to the armamentarium of therapy options is innovative. It allows for better control of epileptic seizures and comorbidities in a space where pharmacotherapy is frequently insufficient at managing multiple, refractory seizure types.

While these results are optimistic, future work must be performed to confirm the postulated multimodal action for more than ten potential targeted sides.


Considering CBD for Epilepsy?

Visit our medical cannabis clinic and learn more about how cannabis might help you with epileptic syndromes.

The CED Clinic was created for those who want to be seen as a person, not just a patient. Dr. Caplan and his team are dedicated to working with you to manage epilepsy and empower you about your medical cannabis choices.

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