Cannabis for kids: Medicinal marijuana could treat children with epilepsy

Cannabis for kids: Medicinal marijuana could treat children with epilepsy
Children with a severe form of epilepsy could be treated with a new drug derived from the cannabis plant. The element of the plant used is non-psychoactive, meaning patients would not receive the usual cannabis high.

The medicine, called Epidiolex, has been trialed in the US, where early studies showed promising results, reducing the frequency and severity of seizures.

Trials of the drug, which contains the compound Cannabidiol (CBD), will begin at Edinburgh University's Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre, based at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, and London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The tests will currently only take place upon children whose seizures cannot currently be controlled by other types of medicine, primarily those with Dravet Syndrome, an incredibly rare form of epilepsy.

Reuters / Maxim Shemetov

Some children will receive doses of Epidiolex, while others will be administered a placebo.

If the tests are successful, further trials will study the effects of the drug on children with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, which typically occurs in between one and five per 100 children with epilepsy.

There are further test centers in the US, France and Poland.

Dr Richard Chin, director of the Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre, said that a new treatment for children with rare forms of epilepsy was essential.

“Many children with serious forms of epilepsy do not respond to the medications that we currently have available,” he said. “We need new means of treating these conditions so that we can give back some quality of life to these children and their families.

Dravet Syndrome frequently becomes noticeable in children under the age of one. It can cause prolonged and multiple kinds of seizure, and in extreme cases can be fatal.

The syndrome also has a severe impact on children’s development in formative years.

The drug has been developed by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company, which is also sponsoring the trial.

News of the pioneering treatment follows the passing of a federal spending measure which effectively ends the government’s prohibition of medicinal cannabis in the US.

The new legislation signals a huge shift in current drug policy and global perceptions of cannabis use.