More than 65 million people across the globe live with epilepsy. The chronic brain disorder — which can cause unpredictable seizures and other health problems — affects 250,000 Australians.
But for children living with the condition a form of medical cannabis offers new hope.
Researchers have found cannabidiol significantly reduced convulsive seizures in a group of 120 children and young adults with a severe form of epilepsy, with five per cent becoming seizure-free.
The international team of researchers including The University of Melbourne’s Professor Ingrid Scheffer, focused on Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy beginning in infancy that is associated with drug-resistant seizures and a high mortality.
In the 14-week study, the researchers found a significant decrease in convulsive seizures for patients receiving cannabidiol as compared to a placebo (a treatment with no therapeutic value).
The patient’s overall condition improved by at least one category on the seven-category Caregiver Global Impression of Change scale in 62 per cent of the cannabidiol group, compared with 34 per cent of the placebo group.
Professor Scheffer welcomed the findings.
“I am delighted that we finally have high-level evidence that cannabidiol is effective for uncontrolled seizures in Dravet syndrome,” she says.
“Until now, there has only been anecdotal evidence but now we have scientific evidence proving that cannabidiol is definitely effective in severe epilepsy.”
“The next question is whether cannabidiol is effective in other forms of epilepsy and it is great that there are trials already underway of cannabidiol in other groups of patients with epilepsy.”
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