Israeli scientists find medical cannabis helps kids with epilepsy – but more trials needed

25th June 2021

Israeli scientists found that, while medical cannabis has the potential to be successful at treating severe epilepsy in children, such treatment could also have an impact on their mental and physical health.

NoCamel reports that the researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) claim more data needed to understand medical cannabis’ impact on the health of children with severe epilepsy.

Professor Ilan Matok at HU’s School of Pharmacy told NoCamel: “There have been studies on the use of medical cannabis for epilepsy in children, for chemotherapy and cancer, and more and more on the effects of medical cannabis for children with autism.

“But since medical cannabis is not [globally] a licensed drug, people have been restrained to use it on children because of its negative connotation. There haven’t been enough studies to know whether it’s appropriate for children.”

However, when they concluded a meta-analysis it showed that CBD is in fact effective at decreasing the number of severe seizures in children with Dravet syndrome, a rare, drug-resistant epilepsy.

Also, medical cannabis was successfully used to mitigate some of the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and vomiting.

Professor Matok said: “Within this systematic review of these seven studies, we found that [with the use of ingredients found in medical cannabis,] there was a 40 per cent reduction in the number of epileptic seizures in children with refractory epilepsy.

“This is especially significant for children where no other epileptic drug is helping them.”

However, the scientists found that medical cannabis “greatly suppresses children’s appetites” and it affects children’s mental health, causing fatigues, apathy, dizziness and lethargy.

Professor Matok added: “This is important to note because the loss of appetite puts a child’s physical development in jeopardy. Paediatricians have to know this and are aware of it in order to follow up.

“Children aren’t small adults. Medical cannabis has some good effects, but also has a number of side effects so they need to be aware.”

He said he wanted to do this study as parents and doctors are “often afraid” to give medical cannabis to children as in some cases it is neither regulated nor accepted drug.

He added: “This is why we wanted to do this study. “There isn’t enough data out there and we wanted to put the data that is there in the literature.

“It should be more studied on children so it can be considered evidence-based medicine and there can be more of a balance of risk vs. benefit.

“Whereas Pfizer and Moderna were able to conduct clinical trials for their COVID-19 vaccine on kids, few top-notch clinical trials exist for cannabis use in children.

“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.”

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