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CBD Gel is an Effective Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy, Study Finds

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Sep 03, 2021   
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Several studies have shown that oral CBD sprays and CBD drops can provide children some relief from the seizures caused by rare epilepsies. But how effective are CBD gels?

That was the question consultants and researchers from the universities of Melbourne and Otago attempted to answer in a new trial. And, indeed, it seems CBD gel can reduce epileptic seizures, according to the researchers’ findings.

Gel done

Published in JAMA Network Open, the study monitored the effects CBD gels had on 48 children, aged between 3 and 18, over a 6.5-month period. All children lived with a form of developmental and epileptic encephalopathy, such as Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Parents of the children were asked to apply the transdermal CBD gel twice daily and record any seizures their child had.

The gels were provided by Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, which also funded the study and was responsible for its “design and conduct”.

Children weighing 25 kg or less initially received 250 mg of CBD per day (mg/day) via their gels, while children weighing over 25 kg were give 500 mg/day. After a month, these doses were increased to 500 mg/day and 750 mg/day, respectively. Two and half months into the treatment, the doses were further increased to 750 mg/day and 1000 mg/day, respectively.

By the end of the trial, the children’s average seizure rate had fallen by 12.3 percent. This effect was more pronounced for certain types of seizures, such as focal impaired awareness seizures (FIASs), a seizure that causes the individual to lose an awareness of their surroundings. On average, the rate of these FIASs fell by 44.5 percent across the cohort.

Incidences of tonic-clonic seizures (TCSs), a type of seizure that causes the individual to lose consciousness, also fell by 22.7 percent, on average.

The majority of children (46 out of 48) reported at least one adverse side effect during the trial, such as an upper respiratory tract infection, somnolence, and vomiting. However, during the course of the trial, most of the patients were also taking other anti-epilepsy medications – medications which may have contributed to the observed adverse events.

Ultimately, the CBD gels were considered safe to use by the researchers, who also noted their effect on seemingly improving the children’s behavior, mood, and sleep patterns.

“CBD transdermal gel was safe and well tolerated,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion. “Treatment was associated with a reduction in FIAS and TCS frequency, as well as with caregiver-reported improvements in behavior, sleep, cognition, and quality of life.”

But the researchers also noted their study’s limitations. There was no placebo group, for instance, and all participants (or at least their parents) knew that they were receiving CBD, so a placebo effect may have occurred.

As such, the authors say their “findings highlight the need for a double-masked randomized clinical trial of CBD transdermal gel.”

CBD and epilepsy

In recent years, many studies have shown the benefit CBD can provide to children and adults living with epilepsy.

Published last year in Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, a review of four randomized controlled trials found that add-on CBD effectively reduced seizure frequency in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, irrespective of concurrent use of the anti-epileptic medication clobazam.

Another study, published this August in Epilepsy & Behavior, found that people with epilepsy who used commercial CBD products had a higher quality of life and less anxiety compared to their peers who didn’t use CBD.

However, many clinicians and researchers around the world remain concerned about the adverse events linked to many CBD and medical cannabis medications.

A recent paper from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem concluded that, while medical cannabis showed good promise in the treatment of seizures, high doses of CBD were still related to decreased appetites in children, fatigue, and feelings of apathy.

“Children aren’t small adults, medical cannabis affects kids differently, and doctors need to pay close attention to those differences,” Professor Ilan Matok, an author of the study, said in a statement at the time. “The goal of our meta-analysis is to shed light on this area and provide doctors and parents with a more informed view of the potential of cannabis to help or harm their young patients.”

Among scientists and clinicians, medical cannabis and CBD products are considered distinct from recreational products, such as pre roll joints made from a pre roll machine.


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