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Compound found in cannabis could treat drop seizures
20 April 2017, 09:43 | Todd Saunders
Marijuana-Based Medicine Can Reduce Epilepsy Seizures, Researchers Say
A study released today is joining a growing chorus of research material that concludes cannabis oil can help reduce seizures for people with certain kinds of epilepsy.
The researchers concluded that "cannabidiol shows great promise in that it may reduce seizures that are otherwise hard to control".
They build on some previous research the company behind the drug, GW Pharma, did past year in people with a rare form of severe epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.
On Tuesday, researchers from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) released the results of a clinical study showing how cannabidol may be effective in reducing seizures in children and adult patients suffering from LGS.
"The seizures in Lennox-Gastaut syndrome can be very hard to treat, and the ones that cause falling can be unsafe and occur multiple times in a day", explained an expert in epilepsy treatment, Dr. Derek Chong. In the United States, GW operates as Greenwich Biosciences Inc.
While there isn't any cure yet to LGS or epilepsy in general, there are available treatments. These types of seizures a risky, hard to control, and often do not respond well to medications.
Unlike the earlier study, though, mostly created to test if taking cannabidiol was safe, the researchers this time included a placebo group and didn't tell patients which one they belonged to beforehand.
Cannabidiol is one of the more than 80 cannabinoids, or active chemicals, present in the cannabis plant.
Note that this study was published as an abstract and presented at a conference.
For their double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers followed 225 people for 14 weeks.
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Each month, the study participants had an average of 85 seizures that involved falling ("drop" seizures), the researchers said. They had an average of 85 drop seizures a month, had tried an average of six epilepsy drugs that didn't work, and were now taken an average of three epilepsy drugs.
Participants were given either a dose of 20mg/kg of daily cannabidiol, a lower dose of 10mg/kg or a placebo on top of their usual medication. Participants who received the 10 mg/kg dose of cannabidiol had a 37% reduction in drop seizures, and 36% had their seizures reduced by half or more.
Results from the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that nearly 40 percent of people with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) had at least a 50 percent reduction in drop seizures, compared to 15 percent taking a placebo.
Comparatively, the placebo group experienced a 17 percent decrease in drop seizures, and seizures were cut in half or more for 15 percent of the participants.
It was also found that those on cannabidiol were 2.6 times more likely to report that their overall condition had improved.
Patients did experience some side-effects, mainly a loss of appetite and sleepiness, but none were particularly severe.
Overall, Dr. Patel and colleagues believe that their results indicate that cannabidiol may be beneficial for patients with LGS. But it does appear to help reduce seizures in one of the hardest-to-treat forms of epilepsy, known as Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome or LGS.
An experimental drug derived from cannabis to treat epilepsy is on the brink of becoming the first of its kind to win USA government approval.
"This latest data from our Phase III program reinforces the potential of Epidiolex to become an important new medicine for patients who suffer from LGS and our planned NDA submission remains on track for the middle of this year", added Justin Gover, GW's chief executive.
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