Administering marijuana compound may help reduce the frequency of seizures in patients with a rare and severe form of epilepsy by 39 per cent, researchers say.
The Dravet syndrome is a complex childhood epilepsy disorder that is associated with drug-resistant seizures and a high mortality rate.
The study showed that cannabidiol, or CBD — a compound in the cannabis plant that does not contain psychoactive properties that induce a high — is effective as a medication for treatment-resistant epilepsy.
"Cannabidiol should not be viewed as a panacea for epilepsy, but for patients with especially severe forms who have not responded to numerous medications, these results provide hope that we may soon have another treatment option," said lead investigator Orrin Devinsky, Professor at New York University Langone in New York City.
The seizure frequency in individuals treated with CBD dropped by 39 per cent from a median of nearly 12 convulsive seizures per month to about six, than people taking placebo which resulted in 13 per cent reduction in seizures from about 15 monthly seizures to fourteen, noted the researchers in the paper appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine.
For the study, the team included 120 children and adolescents with Dravet Syndrome between the ages of 2 and 18 years who received either CBD 20 mg/kg or placebo added to their existing treatment over a 14 week period.
However, 93.4 per cent patients using CBD reported side effects such as vomiting, fatigue and fever as compared to 74.6 per cent of those treated with placebo, the researchers said.