Can A Cannabis Drug Reduce Seizures in Severe Epilepsy Cases?

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Cannabis Drug Reduces Seizures in Severe Epilepsy Cases

A discussion about the relationship between cannabis and seizure reduction in severe epilepsy cases. Researchers have reported that a compound taken from marijuana helped some pediatric patients with a severe and often deadly form of epilepsy, and even completely stopped seizures in some of them.[1]


It is true that some of the existing evidence points to cannabis and its derivatives as a treatment option for patients with cases of severe epilepsy, but there are other studies that point out otherwise. Zaccara et al. 2015[2] observed greater placebo effects in pediatric patients with epilepsy than in those patients treated with CBD. They consider that the role of positive or negative expectations of patients and of investigators may influence the placebo response, concluding that further studies focused on revealing the usefulness of this treatment are necessary.[2]

A placebo effect is a concern for many studies regarding CBD because of the media attention. These substances are likely to interest parents of children with epilepsy, creating what could be perceived as a false recovery expectancy. This is important because seizure frequency was used as an indicator of efficacy in most studies. Some researchers point out that in order to increase the validity of the results obtained regarding these proposed effects, an objective measure for validity such as electroencephalograms (EEGs) is necessary.[3]

Other studies consider that the etiology of the seizures is important in order to consider whether treatment with cannabis derivatives is a good choice or not. As an example, a study of patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome were the only group found to have a statistically significant rate of response to this treatment (58%), with very low rates of response reported among Dravet (6%) and Doose (25%) syndrome patients.[4] The response found on both of these pathologies was very similar to the response encountered for placebo in other comparative studies (traditional treatments vs placebo), again questioning the validity of CBD as a treatment for certain forms of epilepsy.[5][6][7]

Clinicians with strong trajectories such as Dr. Amy Brooks-Kayal, MD, chief of pediatric neurology at Children's Hospital Colorado and professor of pediatrics, neurology and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, maintains that there is currently no clear scientific evidence showing that marijuana or any of its derivatives improve epilepsy in children. Physicians at Children's Colorado do not prescribe, recommend or endorse the use medical marijuana or its derivatives outside of clinical trials. Instead, the institution calls for comprehensive research to assess both the benefits and risks of medical marijuana with more certainty.[8]

All this information brings up one conclusion; there is a desperate need for robust scientific evidence to learn about the potential benefits and risks of cannabis in patients with epilepsy. With current evidence, healthcare professionals cannot possibly know if marijuana is a safe and/or effective treatment for epilepsy. Also, the long-term effects that marijuana will have on learning, memory, and behavior, especially in infants and children, is another subject that must be followed in further studies in order to allow a clinical use for it.[4][8]


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