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Could Cannabidiol Be the Answer to Treatment-resistant Epilepsy & Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome?

The level of frustration and hopelessness is high among one-third of epilepsy cases that are resistant to medication. A just-released study in Lancet, outlines how a pharmaceutical formulation of cannabidiol (20 mg/kg daily), alongside other anti-epilepsy treatments, reduced the number of drop seizures – seizures which involve sudden falls due to loss of muscle tone – in people with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome who did not respond to previous treatment, according to a phase 3 randomised clinical trial published in The Lancet.

“There is an urgent need for novel treatment options for patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and we are pleased that our study has potentially found an additional option to add to patients’ existing treatment to reduce drop seizures,” says lead author Dr. Elizabeth Thiele, Massachusetts General Hospital, USA.

Our results suggest that the use of cannabidiol as an add-on therapy with other anti-epilepsycannabidiol drugs might significantly reduce the frequency of drop seizures in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which is positive news for these patients, who often do not respond to treatment. ~ Dr Elizabeth Thiele, Mass. General

She notes: “It’s important to highlight that the drug used in this trial is a pharmaceutical formulation, and not medical marijuana.” [1]

Around 1-4% of childhood epilepsy cases are caused by Lennox-Gastaut syndrome – a lifelong, severe form of epilepsy involving multiple seizure types and cognitive impairment. While there are a range of drug and non-pharmacological treatments (such as ketogenic diet, nerve stimulation, and brain surgery) available, these only help 10% of patients become seizure free.

After many years without promise of new treatments in Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, this is an exciting time for patients and clinicians. More data and clinical experience of cannabidiol in Lennox-Gastaut syndrome is expected… Clinical trials with cannabidiol are underway in tuberous sclerosis complex… and infantile spasms… and future studies are expected in the other pharmacoresistant epilepsy syndromes,” said Dr. Sophia Varadkar, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust, UK.

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