SEATTLE—For most children with epilepsy, oral cannabis extracts may not reduce the number of seizures by 50% or more, according to research to be presented at the 68th Annual Meeting of the American Epilepsy Society.
Kevin Chapman, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at the University of Colorado in Denver, and his colleagues conducted a retrospective review of 58 children (average age, 7) with catastrophic forms of epilepsy who were receiving artisanal oral cannabis extracts when they came to Children’s Hospital Colorado for care. The investigators found that for one-third of patients, parents reported a seizure reduction of 50% or more, but this report did not correlate with an improvement in the children’s EEGs.
Of the 16 patients who had baseline EEGs before and during treatment with cannabis, two showed signs of improvement. The researchers also noted that the response rate did not change with various strains of cannabis. In addition, families who moved to Colorado for cannibidiol treatment were three times as likely to report seizure reduction of greater than 50% than families who were already in Colorado.
Adverse effects occurred in 47% of the patients. Approximately 21% of patients had increased seizures or new seizures, 14% had somnolence or fatigue, and 10% had rare adverse events of developmental regression. One patient needed intubation, and one patient died.
“This substantial gap between the clinical observations and various anecdotal reports highlighted in popular media underscores the desperate need shared by the entire epilepsy community for robust scientific evidence regarding the potential benefit and risks of marijuana in people with epilepsy,” said Dr. Chapman.