For a product that was almost unknown five years ago, cannabidiol (CBD) has taken the health, sports, and wellness and fitness communities by storm. The hemp extract has potent medicinal properties, capable of fighting a long list of ailments, ranging from anxiety and high blood pressure to chronic pain.
Last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a CBD-derived drug to treat seizures in two rare and hard to manage pediatric epilepsies, Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. Now, results from a recent study show that CBD may also be used to control hard to treat seizures caused by a rare genetic disorder.
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a genetic condition that affects about 1 in 6000 people. It is characterized by the growth of numerous benign (noncancerous) tumors all over the body. They can grow on the skin, brain, kidneys and other major organs. 90% of TSC patients suffer from drug-resistant seizures, and they often have behavioral problems and intellectual disabilities.
Dr. Elizabeth Thiele, the Director of Pediatric Epilepsy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston led the study. It involved 224 TSC patients at six medical centers, and with funding from GW Pharmaceuticals, the company that made Epidiolex, she and her team sought to find out if the patients would respond to the drug.
Even though the medication already works on seizures, researchers aren’t quite sure how it works. Dr. Thiele says that standard seizure drugs all work by similar mechanisms, and apparently, cannabidiol tackles them in a different way. “CBD works by a novel mechanism, but we don’t know exactly what it is.”
Of the 224 patients, half of them were younger than 11 years, and according to Dr. Thiele, they’d tried at least four anti-seizure drugs but had to stop for various reasons, either because they weren’t working or their side effects were too extreme.
Dr. Thiele’s team assigned the patients to take either 25mg or 50mg of Epidiolex per day or a placebo, in addition to any standard anti-seizure medication they were taking. Over 16 weeks, the patients using Epidiolex saw a greater improvement.
The frequency of seizures dropped by almost 50% on average, compared to 27% in the placebo group. The patients on the higher dose were more likely to experience a 50% reduction in seizures, versus the 22% chance that the patients who used placebo had.
Still, Dr.Thiele cautions that CBD is not a cure-all. “It’s not a magic bullet. It doesn’t help everyone, as we saw in the study.”
Dr. William Gaillard, incoming President of the American Epilepsy Society (AES), says that based on the results, Epidiolex has a modest benefit over placebo.
“The effects are promising and likely expand the armamentarium of medications to treat TSC, but this is unlikely to be practice-changing. More research is needed to see how the benefits of Epidiolex hold up over time.”
One wouldn’t be surprised if they discovered that CBD industry players like Neutra Corp. (OTC: NTRR) and The Green Organic Dutchman Holdings Ltd. (TSX: TGOD) (OTCQX: TGODF) expected cannabidiol to help TSC patients since it is so versatile. Research only confirmed their conviction.
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