A cannabis compound has been proven for the first time to reduce the frequency of seizures in people with a rare, severe form of epilepsy, according to the results of a randomized trial.
For years, parents have pointed to anecdotal benefits of cannabidiol (CBD), a compound in the marijuana plant that does not produce a high, saying it reduces seizures in treatment-resistant epilepsy.
Now doctors have performed a large-scale randomized trial to show cause and effect, with the findings published in Wednesday’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
To conduct the study, the researchers focused on Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that begins in infancy and has a high mortality rate. The syndrome is linked to a particular mutation and often resists combinations of up to 10 conventional seizure medications. They enrolled 120 patients who ranged in age from 2.5 to 18 years.
Sixty-one patients were randomly assigned to cannabidiol, and the 59 others to placebo. Neither the researchers nor the families knew who received the medication to prevent bias. All continued to take their existing medications for 12 weeks.
“The message is that cannabidiol does work in reducing convulsing seizures in children with Dravet syndrome,” lead author Dr. Orrin Devinksy, who is director of NYU’s Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, said in a hospital video.
For those in the cannabinoid group, the median number of convulsive seizures per month dropped from 12.4 per month before treatment to 5.9 seizures, the researchers reported.
The placebo group, in comparison, only saw their convulsive seizures fall from 14.9 per month to 14.1.
The study was funded by GW Pharmaceuticals, which also designed and helped run it; one of…