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Epileptic seizures in children halved when using natural compounds found in cannabis – systematic review


Findings follows 36 studies of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials of children and adults who have a rare form of epilepsy

Findings review follows 36 studies of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials of children and adults who have a rare form of epilepsy


For most of the trials one of the cannabinoids was compared with a placebo
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Researchers have found that children experienced 50% or greater reductions in the frequency of epileptic seizures if they used naturally occurring compounds found in cannabis – cannabinoids. 

A total of 36 studies were reviewed. They consisted mainly of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of 555 children and adults with a mean age of 16.3 years. The non-RCTs included 2,865 children and adults who had a mean age of 15 years.

All the participants had rare forms of epilepsy that had not responded to usual treatments for epileptic seizures.

For most of the trials one of the cannabinoids – cannabidiol (CBD) – was compared with a placebo. Although the studies looked at children and adults, there were more children included in the samples. Therefore the authors believe their findings are more confidently related to children.  

Cannabidiol more effective 

CBD was also more effective than placebo at eliminating seizures. One of the studies consisted only of children who had a pooled relative risk of 6.77 of complete seizure freedom.

But the risk of side effects for children and adults – such as dizziness, drowsiness and diarrhoea, was significant at 24% higher – while that of serious side effects was twice as high among those taking cannabidiol.

The review showed seizure frequency dropped by at least 50% in just under half of the patients and disappeared completely in nearly one in ten in eight of these studies. Quality of life improved in half of the patients in 12 of the studies.

‘Pharmaceutical grade CBD as adjuvant treatment in paediatric onset drug resistant epilepsy may reduce seizure frequency,’ conclude the researchers.

‘Existing [RCT] evidence is mostly in paediatric samples with rare and severe epilepsy syndromes; [RCTs] examining other syndromes and cannabinoids are needed.’


Stockings E, Zagic D, Campbell G et al (2018) Evidence for cannabis and cannabinoids for epilepsy: a systematic review of controlled and observational evidence. Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. doi:10.1136/jnnp-2017-317168

 

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