According to the Washington Post, a new marijuana-based anti-seizure medication could be on the market as soon as the latter half of 2018, pending Federal Drug Administration approval.
The drug, Epidiolex, is derived from an oil in marijuana plants called cannabidoil.
Officials from GW Pharmaceuticals, the company that developed the drug, on Wednesday announced promising results from a study on 171 patients randomized into treatment and placebo groups. Members of the group, ages 2 to 55, have a condition called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and were suffering from seizures that were not being controlled by existing drugs. On average they had tried and discontinued six anti-seizure treatments and were experiencing 74 “drop” seizures per month. Drop seizures involve the entire body, trunk or head and often result in a fall or other type of injury.
Results of the study show that 44 percent of patients using Epidiolex saw a significant reduction in seizures. Those in the placebo group say only a 22 percent reduction.
Moreover, more of the patients who got the drug experienced a 50 percent of greater reduction in drop seizures.
The study's lead author, director of pediatric epilepsy at Massachusetts General Hospital Elizabeth Theile, said how well the treatment works depends on the patient:
“For some, it does not do a whole lot. But for the people it does work in, it is priceless,” she said.
“One child who comes to mind had multiple seizures a day. She had been on every medication possible,” said Thiele, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. Then the patient tried the cannabis-based treatment and has been seizure-free for almost four years. “She is now talking about college options. She would have never had that conversation before. It has been life-changing.”