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article imageMarijuana reduces seizures in new study

By Tim Sandle     Dec 29, 2015 in Science
A study involving medical marijuana has identified a compound found within the drug that can assist with the reduction of seizures in epilepsy patients. The patients had previously not responded well to other types of therapy.
The reason for the research focus is because around one-third of epilepsy patients are classed with a treatment-resistant form of the condition. Epilepsy refers to a group of neurological diseases characterized by epileptic seizures. The cause of most cases of epilepsy is unknown. Epilepsy that does not respond well to medication is manifest in refractory seizures. This is epilepsy where seizures are frequent and severe enough to interfere with quality of life.
Some patients use medical marijuana to help alleviate the condition and are of the view it reduces the number of seizures or the severity of seizures. There is, however, little scientific research to back this up.
A new study has looked at whether cannabidiol (one of 60-odd active substances within marijuana) can assist with reducing seizures connected with epilepsy. The study was led by Orrin Devinsky .
With the study, 214 patients aged between one and 30 years were recruited. Of these, 162 were given an investigational new drug (a cannabidiol in oral form under the trade name Epidiolex.) Between 25 mg/kg or 50 mg/kg was administered per patient each day. The patients were monitored for one year and at the end of the process a 37 percent reduction in the rate of seizures was recorded. Greatest success was seen with a decline in focal (impaired consciousness) and atonic (muscle related) seizures.
However, 128 patients experienced minor to moderate side effects and 20 patients experienced strong side effects to the extent they had to stop taking the experimental drug. Thus, while the results were encouraging further study is required before a drug can be developed to go forward for regulatory approval.
The research is published in the medical journal The Lancet, in a paper titled "Cannabidiol in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy: an open-label interventional trial."
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