Medical cannabis may cut seizures in half in epilepsy patients

Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, or LGS, is a severe form of epilepsy that starts in childhood.
By Amy Wallace   |   April 19, 2017 at 12:31 PM

April 19 (UPI) -- A new study has found that cannabidiol may cut seizures in half for children and adults with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, or LGS, a severe form of epilepsy.

Cannabidiol is a molecule from the cannabis plant that does not have the psychoactive properties that create a "high."

Patients with LGS often experience multiple types of seizures including drop seizures, a seizure where muscle tone changes causing them to collapse and tonic-clinic seizures that involve a loss of consciousness and full-body convulsions. Drop seizures can lead to injury and visits to hospital emergency rooms.

Researchers followed 225 patients with LGS and an average age of 16 for 14 weeks. Participants were given either a higher dose of 20 mg of daily cannabidiol, a lower dose of 10 mg of daily cannabidiol or a placebo in addition to their regular seizure medication.

The study showed that nearly 40 percent of people with LGS experienced at least a 50 percent reduction in drop seizures when taking the liquid form of cannabidiol compared to 15 percent taking the placebo. Participants taking the lower dose of cannabidiol had a 37 percent reduction in drop seizures and 36 percent had seizures reduced by half or more.

Participants taking the placebo had a 17 percent reduction in drop seizures and 15 percent had seizures reduced by half or more.

"Our study showed that cannabidiol shows great promise in that it may reduce seizures that are otherwise difficult to control," Dr. Anup Patel, of Nationwide Children's Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine, said in a press release. "Our results suggest that cannabidiol may be effective for those with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome in treating drop seizures. This is important because this kind of epilepsy is incredibly difficult to treat."

Roughly 94 percent of participants taking the higher dose of cannabidiol, 84 percent taking the lower dose and 72 percent taking the placebo, reported experiencing side effects. Most side effects were reported as mild to moderate and included decreased appetite and sleepiness.

The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 69th Annual Meeting in Boston on April 22-28.

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