Study: Marijuana Reduces Seizures in Kids With Rare Form of Epilepsy

Dravet Syndrome patients given marijuana-derived CBD saw seizures dramatically decrease compared to placebo group

A new study shows that marijuana helped dramatically reduce the number of seizures suffered by children with Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. Credit: Jack Guez/Getty

For years, parents of children with Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy, have been advocating for the use of non-psychoactive medical marijuana to treat their kids. Now, a new study shows that cannabis helped dramatically reduce the number of seizures suffered by these children.  

The New England Journal of Medicine published the study's findings Wednesday, with the results of the 14-week trial concluding that a 20 mg dose of cannabidiol, or CBD, a medicinal form of marijuana, decreasing the average weekly seizures in its patients from 12.4 to 5.9.

By comparison, those in the 120-patient study who received a placebo saw the number of seizures only decrease from 14.9 to 14.1.

Additionally, 5 percent of the group who received cannabidiol treatments saw their seizures disappear completely, compared to 0 percent in the placebo group, STAT reports.

"We now have solid, rigorous scientific evidence that in this specific syndrome, cannabidiol is effective at reducing seizures," Dr. Orrin Devinsky, a New York neurologist and author of the study, wrote.

There is currently no FDA-approved treatment for Dravet Syndrome, a rare genetic form of epilepsy that kills 20 percent of its sufferers by the age of 20.

However, the results of the study weren't without some drawbacks: Eight patients who were given CBD had to withdraw from the study due to side effects that included severe diarrhea, fatigue and fever.

Additionally, more studies must be conducted to determine if cannabidiol can assist in more common forms of epilepsy, as well as adults who suffer the affliction. How cannabidiol reacts with more conventional medications must also be further determined.

The study was conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals, a company that specializes in developing prescription cannabinoid medicines; GW previously received approval for Sativex, a cannabidiol-based medication that assists in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.