Studies on Marijuana Extract for Children’s Epilepsy Suggest Treatment May Help Some

Several new studies on children with severe epilepsy who have been treated with the marijuana extract cannabidiol suggest some may be helped by the drug, NPR reports.

One study presented this week at the American Epilepsy Society meeting initially included 313 children from 16 epilepsy centers. Over three months, 16 percent of the children withdrew from the study because the cannabidiol was ineffective or had adverse effects.

Among the 261 children who stayed in the study, the number of seizures was reduced by about half on average, according to lead researcher Dr. Orrin Devinsky of New York University Langone Medical Center.

Some children continued to benefit from the treatment after the study ended. “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,” he says. Dravet syndrome is a rare and catastrophic form of intractable epilepsy that begins in infancy.

Devinsky noted some children did worse on cannabidiol, but he does not yet know whether the drug itself was the cause.

Another study followed 25 children with drug-resistant epilepsy who took cannabidiol for a year. Some children improved, while others did worse, said lead researcher Dr. Maria Robert Cilio of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. “For one particular child, the more the dose of [cannabidiol] was increasing, that increase was paralleled with an increase in seizure frequency,” she said.

Dr. Brenda Porter, a pediatric neurologist at Stanford University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the studies, told NPR doctors are concerned about parents who try cannabis products on their children with epilepsy.

Dr. Devinsky agrees. “It’s a very worrisome time. People go off and do their own thing, if things go wrong, you don’t know why. You want data, and you don’t have it, and all the families are just trying things,” he said.


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