A new clinical study showed that cannabidiol, a common compound found in cannabis, could help reduce seizures in epilepsy patients by more than 40 percent. The 14 weeks treatment proved very beneficial both in adults and children suffering from severe epilepsy known as LGS.

Epilepsy is one of the most common chronic neurological disorders, affecting around 50 million people worldwide according to a report by the World Heath Organization (WHO). It causes patients to undergo extremely unpleasant and dangerous recurring episodes of involuntary movement known as seizures.

A particularly severe type of epilepsy with multiple different type of seizures is known as the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which frequently affects children. Two of the most common types of seizures in LGS are tonic (stiffening) and atonic (drop) seizures, the latter leading to a sudden loss of muscle tone, causing the patient´s body to give out and collapse in place. Additional cognitive impairment is characteristic and makes management of the disorder even tougher. Although effective medication for symptomatic treatment of epilepsy is available, it is often ineffective against LGS and alternatives are being increasingly sought after.

Last week, researchers from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) released results of a study where they explored the positive effects of cannabidiol, a “non-high inducing” compound of cannabis, in LGS patients. The cannabinoid accounted for a significant drop in occurrence of atonic seizures in patients taking the medication.

“Our study found that cannabidiol shows great promise in that it may reduce seizures that are otherwise difficult to control,” said study author Anup Patel, MD, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The study involved 225 patients aged 16 years on average, which were split into three groups: two received high (20 mg/kg) and low (10 mg/kg) doses of cannabidiol and the third receiving only placebo, for a total of 14 weeks. The two experimental groups exhibited a strong 42 percent and 37 percent decrease in atonic seizures respectively, while the placebo group only showed a minor 17 percent reduction. The effects were accompanied with moderate side effects including decreased appetite and drowsiness.

“Our results suggest that cannabidiol may be effective for those with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in treating drop seizures,” said Patel. “This is important because this kind of epilepsy is incredibly difficult to treat. While there were more side effects for those taking cannabidiol, they were mostly well-tolerated. I believe that it may become an important new treatment option for these patients.”

The research team indicated that they plan to submit a New Drug Application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) later this year. The study was supported by GW Pharmaceuticals, a developer of cannabidiol.

Learn more about cannabidiol in the video below:

By Luka Zupančič, MSc, University of Applied Sciences Technikum Vienna.