Dutch announce €1.4 million to fund research into medical cannabis for epilepsy

5th August 2021

The Dutch Health Ministry has announced that a grant of €1.4 million will be made available for research into the efficacy of medical cannabis products in the treatment of intractable epilepsy in children.

The grant will be open to researchers who plan to conduct relevant research into whether medical cannabis products are able to reduce the frequency/severity of seizures in children with treatment-resistant epilepsy. Applications will be open until 28 September, 2021.

Dutch Subsidies for Medical Cannabis Research

The grant comes as the second instalment of research funding by the Dutch government into the potential of medical cannabis. Last year, an initial subsidy of €1.9 million was made available to aid research into medical cannabis for neuropathic pain.

Subsidies for research into childhood epilepsy reportedly come as a direct result of a question from the Dutch House of Representatives. Rep. Vera Bergkamp called on the government to “have research carried out in the short term … effect of medicinal cannabis [in] children with epilepsy”.

Successful applicants must use medical cannabis from the Office of Medicinal Cannabis (OMC) for their research. The proceeds from medicinal cannabis sold by the OMC, both in the Netherlands and abroad, have been used to finance both rounds of grants.

Medical Cannabis in Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy

Clinical evidence has increasingly demonstrated the potential of cannabis compounds for the treatment of various conditions. One of the most convincing areas of research thus far has been in the treatment of rare forms of treatment-resistant epilepsy – particularly in children and adolescents.

Current findings suggest that CBD (cannabidiol) – a common, non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant – may be effective in reducing both the frequency and severity of epileptic seizures.

CBD-based medical cannabis products from the Dutch pharmacy can currently be prescribed to children (from 2-18 years old) with Dravet syndrome or patients aged 2 years or older with Lennox Gastaut syndrome – both rare forms of treatment-resistant epilepsy. The medicine (Bedrolite) is manufactured by the Dutch-based pharmaceutical company, Bedrocan.

Patients in the UK may also be prescribed medical cannabis for the treatment of intractable epilepsy, though patients remain largely reliant on the private sector.

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