A new study has found that cannabidiol (CBD), a medical marijuana derivative, was effective in reducing seizure frequency for patients with severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy.
The year-long study led by researchers at New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center also found that CBD was well-tolerated and safe for most children and young adults.
Led by Orrin Devinsky, M.D., a professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry and director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone, the study took place at 11 epilepsy centers across the country.
Patients were given the oral CBD treatment Epidiolex over a 12-week treatment period. Results showed a median 36.5 percent reduction in monthly motor seizures, with the median monthly frequency falling from 30 a month at the study’s start to 15.8 over the 12 weeks.
Equally important, CBD was shown to have a sufficient safety profile and was well-tolerated by many patients, despite some isolated adverse events, the researchers noted.
“We are very encouraged by our trial results showing that CBD was safe and well-tolerated for most patients, and that seizures dropped significantly,” said Devinsky.
“But before we raise hopes for families who regularly deal with the devastation of treatment-resistant epilepsy, more research, including further studies through our ongoing randomized controlled trial, are needed to definitively recommend CBD as a treatment to patients with uncontrolled seizures.”
The study was an open-labeled trial, meaning that both the researchers and participants’ families knew they were receiving CBD, a compound in medical marijuana that does not contain psychoactive properties.
Over the course of a year, 214 patients ranging in age between one and 30 years-old with treatment-resistant epilepsy were enrolled in the trial. Of that number, 162 (76 percent) had at least 12 weeks of follow-up after the first dose of CBD and were included in the safety and tolerability analysis. In addition, 137 (64 percent) were included in the analysis to determine the drug’s efficacy.
Devinsky is currently leading a randomized, controlled trial — considered the gold standard of scientific research — in which CBD or a placebo is randomly assigned to patients.
“I empathize with parents who are looking for answers and will try anything to help their children suffering the devastating effects of intractable epilepsy. But we must let the science, and not anecdotal success stories and high media interest, lead this national discussion,” said Devinsky.
“Taking CBD in a controlled medical setting is vastly different from going to a state where medical marijuana is legal and experimenting with dosing and CBD strains.”
The study was published in Lancet Neurology.