By Emily Ledger
In the Summer of 2018, the then-Home-Secretary Sajid Javid granted a license for medical cannabis to six-year-old Alfie Dingley. Having suffered from a rare form of Epilepsy from a young age, Alfie’s parents discovered that cannabis was the most effective treatment for Alfie.
It has been found that cannabis compounds – most commonly CBD and THC – can be effective in reducing seizures in rare forms of epilepsy – specifically Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes.
Following increasing pressure from patients and experts, cannabis was rescheduled in November 2018. The law change allows specialist doctors to provide prescriptions for a small number of conditions, including these two rare forms of epilepsy.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder, which affects one or multiple parts of the brain, and often causes seizures. Epileptic seizures can range from mild to severe and may significantly affect victims’ everyday life. There is no cure for epilepsy, but it can be managed with existing medications.
What is the effect of CBD on Epilepsy?
There has been a number of studies worldwide that aimed to explore the effects of CBD on specific forms of epilepsy. However, these studies tended to focus on rare forms of illness among children and young people.
A number of studies have shown is that medical grade CBD has been known to have a positive effect on some forms of epilepsy. In some cases, CBD, when administered in a controlled environment, has reduced the number of seizures by over 50%. Some patients (around 1 in 150) have reported becoming seizure-free.
The most recent study was carried out by Canadian health company, Satipharm. Their clinical trial on 16 children suffering from treatment-resistant epilepsy was carried out over 12 weeks, with a treatment of their lab-developed CBD capsules. The trial reported an average seizure reduction of 82%, with two patients becoming seizure-free in five weeks.
In some cases, medications containing Cannabis-derived compounds, such as Epidiolex, may be prescribed by doctors in the UK. However, more research is needed to understand the effects of commercially available CBD products on epilepsy.
What are the risks?
CBD products that are sold in the UK are sold as nutritional supplements, not as registered medications. This means that they are unable to claim any positive medical effects. You should not stop taking your epilepsy medication, or substitute them for a CBD product unless directed by an epilepsy specialist to do so.
Possible side effects of taking CBD with other epilepsy medication can differ too. This is down to the reaction of different medicines in the blood resulting in potentially dangerous consequences. For example, people taking CBD with sodium valproate may have altered liver function.
When considering using CBD products to help medicate Epilepsy, it is important to first consult a specialist.