Cannabidiol Quells Seizures

The marijuana-derived compound shows promise in treating rare forms of epilepsy that cause children to have seizures multiple times a day.

Apr 14, 2015
Jef Akst

FLICKR, CARLOS GRACIACannabidiol, one of dozens of active cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant, can reduce the frequency of seizures in patients suffering from two rare forms of epilepsy called Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, according to a study to be presented next week (April 22) at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. More than 135 participants, most of whom were children, have completed a 12-week course of a liquid form of the drug, and more than half have experienced a significant reduction in the number of seizures they suffered, which averaged a startling 95 per month prior to the trial. A dozen or so patients were completely seizure-free after three months.

“We’re very encouraged by the data,” lead researcher Orrin Devinsky, director of the New York University Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, told The Washington Post. A larger, double-blind trial will be next, he added. More research is also needed to determine whether cannabidiol could benefit people with other forms of epilepsy.

The trial was supported by the U.K.-based company GW Pharmaceuticals, which provided the cannabidiol for the study. (For more on GW Pharmaceuticals and other biotech companies looking to bring cannabis-based drugs through clinical trials, see “Cannabis Biotech,” The Scientist, December 2014.)