A medicine based on cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive molecule found in cannabis, has been found to cut the number of seizures by half among some patients suffering from a severe form of epilepsy.
The results provide a boost for claims that cannabidiol, or CBD, can be an effective treatment for epileptic patients — a view supported by a growing body of evidence despite legal restrictions that have made it difficult for scientists to extensively study the substance, as well as reluctance so far among federal authorities to officially sanction use of the compound in medicine.
CBD, often referred as CBD oil, is already available over-the-counter in some states that have legalized its medicinal use, even though it is still considered an illegal substance by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration is studying whether to approve CBD extract as medicine, while issuing formal warnings to makers of products containing CBD oil to stop making claims about the health benefits of their products.
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The results of the new study, presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, add fuel to the assertion that CBD may soon gain acceptance as a powerful treatment for severe cases of epilepsy.
"Our study found that cannabidiol shows great promise in that it may reduce seizures that are otherwise difficult to control," said the author of the study, Dr. Anup Patel, of Nationwide Children's Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus.
The study looked at 225 patients with a severe form of epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), who had an average of 85 drop seizures per month. On average, the patients had each already tried six epilepsy drugs that had proved ineffective, and were taking an average of three epilepsy drugs during the study.