Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 9th 2015 Contents A28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Parents of children with severe epilepsy have
reported incredible recoveries when their children
were given cannabidiol, a derivative of marijuana.
The drug, a non-psychoactive compound that occurs
naturally in cannabis, has been marketed with epi-
thets like Charlotte s Web and Haleigh s Hope.
But those parents were taking a risk; there has been
no clinical data on cannabidiol s safety of efficacy as
an anti-epileptic. This week, doctors are presenting
the first studies trying to figure out if cannabidiol
actually works. They say the studies results are prom-
ising, but with a grain of salt.
The largest study being presented at the American
Epilepsy Society meeting in Philadelphia this week
was started in 2014 with 313 children from 16 different
epilepsy centers around the country. Over the course
of the three-month trial, 16 per cent of the participants
withdrew because the cannabidiol was either ineffective
or had adverse side-effects, says Dr Orrin Devinsky,
a neurologist at the New York University Langone
Medical Center and lead author on the study.
But for the 261 patients that continued taking
cannabidiol, the number of convulsive seizures, called
grand mal or tonic-clonic seizures, went down by
about half on average. Devinsky says that some children
continued to experience benefits on cannabidiol after
the trial ended. "In the subsequent periods, which
are very encouraging, nine per cent of all patients and
13 per cent of those with Dravet Syndrome epilepsy
were seizure-free. Many have never been seizure-free
before," he says. It s one of several papers on cannabidiol
being presented this week at the American Epilepsy
Society meeting in Philadelphia.
Twenty-five of those patients were followed for a
year-long study also presented at the meeting. Some
of those patients did better, but one ended up doing
worse. "A drug can induce an increase in seizures,"
says Dr Maria Roberta Cilio, a pediatric neurologist
at UCSF Benioff Children s Hospital who led that
study. This happened with one of her patients. "For
one particular child, the more the dose of [cannabidiol]
was increasing, that increase was paralleled with an
increase in seizure frequency," she says.
Some patients in Devinsky s trial also did worse
while on cannabidiol, but he thinks there s no way to
tell if it was because of the drug or something else.
He says we won t know until a full clinical trial has
run its course. Without that, the perceived effects of
the drug might be a placebo effect or it could be some
other confounding factor that hasn t been caught in
What s more, a few hundred patients isn t a lot of
patients, and doctors still need to see what will happen
when a patient is on cannabidiol for more than a few
months. Epilepsy can be one of the most difficult
syndromes to treat. About a third of patients have an
intractable form of epilepsy. It s common for children
and adults with treatment-resistant epilepsy to exhaust
the list of anti-seizure medications to little or no
effect. Jaren Hansen is a 7-year-old boy with Lennox-
Gastaut Syndrome, a form of treatment-resistant
epilepsy. When he was 2, he started having seizures.
His doctors diagnosed him with epilepsy and started
him on one anti-seizure medication. Then they added
another, and then another.
None of them seemed to be working. His mother,
Nicole Hansen from Necedah, Wisc, who works as
a cranberry grower in Wisconsin, started researching
her son s illness. She found an online chat group with
other parents who were discussing medical cannabis,
and decided to try it.
After Hansen put her son on cannabidiol he con-
tinued to have seizures, but the number of convulsive
seizures went down. Then he caught a stomach flu,
and things spiraled out of control. The tonic-clonic
seizures came back, violently, and he nearly died.
"They put him into am medically induced coma in
hopes that it would reset his brain." she says. "By
Marijuana extract may
help with epilepsy
God s grace, truly, and by a miracle it did."
Jaren is not on cannabidiol anymore. He s on three
different medications now, including a benzodiazepine
and a barbiturate. "Both in the long-term can cause
brain atrophy," Hansen says. " (NPR)
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
A strain of high-cannabidiol marijuana is used to create extracts used in
experimental epilepsy treatments. PHOTO: GW PHARMACEUTICALS
Links Archive December 8th 2015 December 10th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page