Cannabis-based drug for epilepsy afflicted children shows promising signs in clinical trials

15 October 2014

A new cannabis-based drug for epilepsy-afflicted children had shown ''promising'' signs in clinical trials, The Independent reported.

Children with Dravet Syndrome and other forms of epilepsy that do not respond to existing drugs are receiving treatment with the drug Epidiolex which is being tested.

According to its manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals, most of the 60 children in the trials so far had seen the frequency of both ''drop'' and convulsive seizures fall.

Somnolence and fatigue were the most common side effects that manifested in a fifth and tenth of the patients respectively.

According to Dr Elizabeth Thiele, director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, she was ''very encouraged'' by the preliminary results.

She added, she believed that Epidiolex had the potential to be an important advance in treatment for these treatment-resistant children and it would likely have a significant role as a future therapy.

The drug, which is free from any intoxicating effects, is a liquid made of a purified cannabidiol extracted from marijuana plants grown under licence at a secret location in the UK.

After the US Food and Drug Administration fast-tracked the drug's status to allow the trials earlier this year,  placebo-controlled clinical trials for Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome are set to start, The Telegraph reported.

Epidiolex, has reduced seizure frequency by a half to three-quarters, on average, in a small group of children with a debilitating form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome.

Similar results were seen in children with so-called "drop seizures" - those in which the patient fell to the ground due to a loss in muscle tone.

The medicine had been tested in 151 patients across the US after the US medicines regulator granted British drug maker GW Pharmaceuticals special permission to supply it to children in particular hospitals. The company had however only seen the results in 58 of these patients since data on the remaining children had not yet been released by the doctors.

The patients included 12 with Dravet Syndrome, 12 with drop seizures and 34 with other types of difficult-to-treat epilepsy.

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