Cannabis-Based Drug for Epilepsy

A marijuana-derived compound shows continued success in treating children with a rare form of the seizure disorder. 

Mar 14, 2016
Jef Akst

FLICKR, BOB DORANLondon-based GW Pharmaceuticals announced today (March 14) that its cannabis-based drug Epidiolex significantly reduced seizures in children with Dravet syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy, in the first of four large trials of the treatment. Specifically, patients taking the drug experienced 39 percent fewer seizures, compared with a 13 percent reduction in the control group.

“This shows that cannabinoids can produce compelling and clinical [sic] important data and represent a highly promising new class of medications, hopefully in a range of conditions,” GW’s chief executive, Justin Gover, told Reuters. The company, which is currently conducting three other Phase 3 trials for patients with Dravet and other rare forms of epilepsy, plans to move forward with its application for US Food and Drug Administration approval. Epidiolex—which is made of cannabidiol, a component of marijuana that does not cause psychoactive effects—would be the first marijuana-based prescription drug marketed in the U.S., The New York Times reported; two synthetic versions of THC, the component of marijuana that does make people feel “high,” are already on the US market (to quell nausea in patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy and to treat weight and appetite loss in patients with AIDS).

(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.)