Cannabidiol Helps Reduce Frequency of Drop Seizures in Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome

Patients taking cannabidiol experienced a significant reduction in drop seizures compared with placebo.
Patients taking cannabidiol experienced a significant reduction in drop seizures compared with placebo.

HOUSTON – Treatment with cannabidiol, when used as an add-on to other antiepileptic drug (AED) therapy, reduces the number of drop seizures experienced by patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

The data,1 which are from the first controlled trial of cannabidiol in this population, were presented at the 2016 American Epilepsy Society Annual Meeting.

A team of researchers led by Elizabeth Thiele, MD, PhD, director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of cannabidiol with concomitant AED therapy in patients aged 2 to 55 years (34% over the age of 18) with treatment-resistant Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Patients experienced at least 2 drop seizures per week at baseline and failure of treatment with at least 1 AED.

Over a 14-week period (with a 2-week dose escalation period), patients were randomly assigned to receive 20 mg/kg/d of cannabidiol in oral solution or placebo. Ultimately, 171 patients (mean age = 15 years; median drop seizure frequency = 74 per 28 days) were included in the trial; 86 received cannabidiol and 85 received placebo. Enrolled patients had previously been treated with a mean of 6 AEDs and received a mean of 3 concomitant AEDs during the trial.

Over the course of the treatment period, patients receiving cannabidiol experienced a median 44% reduction in monthly drop seizure frequency compared with 22% in patients who received placebo (P= .0135), with a difference in response notable within the first 4 weeks of stable dosing. This response was sustained through the end of the trial. Notably, 3 patients assigned to cannabidiol experienced no drop seizures during the maintenance period.

Adverse events, most of which were mild or moderate in the cannabidiol group, occurred in 86% of the cannabidiol group and 69% in the placebo group. The most common adverse events in the cannabidiol group were diarrhea, sleepiness, fever, decreased appetite, and vomiting. Serious adverse events, as determined by site investigators, including abnormal liver function (elevated LFT, but no clinical symptoms of toxicity), drowsiness, and loss of appetite, occurred in 20 patients in the cannabidiol group and 4 in the placebo group. These events were considered treatment related in 9 of the patients in the cannabidiol group, most of which were due to drug interactions. One death occurred in the cannabidiol group, though it was unrelated to treatment.

Overall, the results are promising, suggesting that cannabidiol is a safe and well-tolerated treatment for patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome whose drop seizures do not respond to standard AED therapy. “It is not a silver bullet, but there are children who benefit from this more than they have from other treatments,” Dr Thiele said in a statement.2

Disclosures: Dr Thiele serves as a consultant to GW Pharmaceuticals, who manufactures Epidiolex, a purified 98% oil-based cannabidiol extract.

Click here for more coverage of AES 2016.

References

  1. Thiele E, Mazurkiewicz-Beldzinska M, Benbadis S, et al. Cannabidiol (CBD) significantly reduces drop seizure frequency in Lennox-Gastaut syndrome: Results of a multi-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (GWPCARE4). Presented at: 2016 American Epilepsy Society Annual Meeting. December 2-6, 2016; Houston, TX. Abstract 1.377.
  2. Cannabidiol medicine may help patients with epilepsy who don't benefit from standard medications, research suggests [press release]. Houston, TX: American Epilepsy Society; December 3, 2016. 
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