The importance of developing new drug therapies for drug-resistant epilepsy is coming to the forefront. GW Pharmaceuticals, a British drug company, has just completed an important clinical trial examining the safety and effectiveness of a drug based on the marijuana extract, cannabidiol, in children with Dravet Syndrome. Among other developmental disabilities, children with Dravet Syndrome experience drug-resistant seizures and GW Pharma is aiming to treat these seizures with the cannabidiol drug, Epidiolex.

Their trial randomly placed 120 children with Dravet Syndrome into two groups – one receiving 20 mg/kg/day Epidiolex and the other receiving a placebo or inactive pill. Comparing the two groups after 14-weeks of treatment, it was found that children who took Epidiolex had on average 39% fewer convulsive seizures per month, whereas children on placebo only had a 13% reduction. These results are clinically significant.

Overall, the drug was well-tolerated but more studies need to be completed. To further examine the effectiveness of this treatment, GW Pharma is awaiting results from another phase III clinical trial in children with Dravet Syndrome and two more phase III trials for Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.

Similar to the studies conducted by GW Pharma, Dr. Mac Burnham plans to organize a clinical trial in Canada examining the effects of cannabidiol in adults with drug-resistant epilepsy. Dr. Burnham, his academic colleagues and industry partners are currently in the midst of developing the study design and completing a clinical trials application.

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