Cannabidiol May Help Reduce Seizure Severity and Frequency

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

For people living with epilepsy, the severity and frequency of their seizures affects their risk of permanent injury and death. In early research announced at the American Epilepsy Society's 70th Annual Meeting, Cannabidiol (CBD) provided a 30% to 50% reduction in seizure frequency and a 50% reduction of seizure severity in study participants. Therefore, CBD may be a possible method to improve the quality of life of those living with severe and frequent seizures when available therapies are not effective.

Study Purpose

A study conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham included 42 children and 39 adults who experienced four or more seizures per month. People in the study received an initial dose of CBD and their dosage increased until a benefitial effect was observed. Researchers measured interactions with anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) and reductions in seizure frequency and seizure severity. To measure reduction in seizure severity, researchers used the Chalfont Seizure Severity Scale, a questionnaire given before treatment and then subsequently every two weeks during follow-up with a physician. People in the study kept a seizure a journal and met with doctors every two weeks to provide measurement for seizure frequency.

Study Results

  • After one month, seizure frequency among participants ranged between 25-75% reduction in seizure frequency. These results were maintained at three and six months.
  • Those that stopped taking CBD (23%) did so because they didn't benefit from the treatment or experienced adverse side-effects such as diarrhea and worsened seizures.
  • For the 57 people that were followed for three months, 67% experienced a more than 50% decline in seizure severity.
  • The 63 people followed for more than six months experienced a greater than 50% decrease in seizure severity.
  • CBD interactions with the AEDs studied ranged from sedation to a decrease in liver function when taken with common AEDs (valproate, clobazam, rufinamide, topiramiate, zonisamide, and esclicarbazine).

Outlook for the Future

While more research is needed to fully understand how CBD can help some people living with epilepsy, Dr. Jerzy Szaflarski, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Epilepsy Center, found the study results promising. He said, "Our research adds to the evidence that CBD may reduce frequency of seizures, but we also found that it appears to decrease the severity of seizures, which is a new finding."

CBD is a compound found in marijuana. The CBD used in this study contained almost pure CBD and less than one percent tetrahydrocannabidnol, the psychoactive component of marijuana.This product is expected to be submitted to the FDA for approval as a prescription medicine in 2017.

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The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.

 
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