A key ingredient in cannabis may help to curb the frequency of epileptic seizures, say researchers.
The UK and Australian study, published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, comes as a former Conservative Home Office minister lent his support to a campaign to allow a 6-year-old boy to be given the drug to treat his rare form of epilepsy.
Reviewing the evidence
Researchers from the University of New South Wales and King’s College London reviewed available evidence on whether cannabinoids may supress convulsions.
They examined results from 6 clinical trials involving 555 people and 30 observational studies involving 2,865 people.
The patients, with an average age of 16, had rare forms of epilepsy that had not responded well to conventional treatments.
Data from the clinical trials showed that one of the naturally occurring compounds in cannabis, cannabidiol, or CBD for short, reduced the frequency of epileptic seizures by 50% or more compared to a placebo (dummy) drug.
CBD was also more effective than the placebo drug at eradicating seizures altogether, although the researchers say this was rare.
The most commonly reported side-effects were drowsiness and dizziness.
An analysis of 17 of the observational studies found that the frequency of seizures dropped by at least 50% in 48.5% of people.
In 14 of the observational studies, 8.5% of those taking CBD were seizure-free.
Quality of life improved for 55.8% of people in 12 of the observational studies.
Israel, the Netherlands, Germany, and Canada have passed laws to allow the use of cannabinoids for medicinal purposes. In Australia, federal and state legislation that allows doctors to prescribe
cannabinoids is being implemented.
Sir Mike Penning MP is backing the parents of Alfie Dingley who are calling on the government to grant their son a special licence to be treated with medicinal cannabis oil.
The Warwickshire youngster, who has a rare form of epilepsy called PCHD-19, experiences 150 epileptic seizures a month and has to be treated in hospital each time.