A drug derived from cannabis could have a life changing effect for thousands of people living with epilepsy, according to new research published today by Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
A trial of 120 children conducted in Europe and the USA has shown that cannabidiol – derived from cannabis but with the psycho-active elements removed – reduces seizures by nearly 40% in children with a form of drug resistant epilepsy, known as Dravet syndrome. It also has the potential to provide relief to the thousands of children with other strains of epilepsy who live with debilitating seizures.
Professor Helen Cross, Consultant in Paediatric Neurology at GOSH and joint lead author of the study, said: “The results of this study are significant and provide us with firm evidence of the effectiveness of cannabidiol. This drug could make a considerable difference to children who are living with Dravet syndrome and currently endure debilitating seizures.”
The study, Trial of Cannabidiol for Drug-Resistant seizures in the Dravet Syndrome, is published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
One hundred and twenty children with Dravet syndrome across Europe and the USA were given two daily doses of cannabidiol orally for fourteen weeks. At the end of the study the average number of severe seizures reduced by nearly 40%. For 5% of patients, seizures stopped completely.
Dr Peter Steer, Chief Executive Officer, Great Ormond Street Hospital said: “The importance of this research cannot be under-estimated. It is the first time that a drug has been identified which can significantly reduce the risk of seizures for children living with the debilitating Dravet syndrome of epilepsy and is another mark of the commitment of Great Ormond Street Hospital and the UCL GOS Institute of Child Health to develop treatments that can transform the lives of children.”
GOSH led the study in partnership with New York University. The GOSH researchers also worked closely with colleagues at research partner, the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health.
Dravet syndrome affects one in every 40,000 children in the UK. This is a rare form of epilepsy where, in addition to frequent epileptic seizures, children often experience behavioural problems and neurodevelopmental delay. This form of epilepsy is difficult to treat as seizures are resistant to of the majority of anti-epileptic drugs currently available.
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Notes to Editors
- In the UK, there are approximately 60,000 children under 18 with epilepsy
- Epilepsy is no longer viewed as a single disease - it is actually many different seizure-causing diseases that affect the brain
- Symptoms include seizures which vary in intensity, depending on the severity of the condition.
- We know there are more than 130 known causes of epilepsy
About Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust
Great Ormond Street Hospital is one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals with the broadest range of dedicated, children’s healthcare specialists under one roof in the UK. The hospital’s pioneering research and treatment gives hope to children from across the UK with the rarest, most complex and often life-threatening conditions. Our patients and families are central to everything we do – from the moment they come through the door and for as long as they need us.
About GW Pharmaceuticals plc
Founded in 1998, GW is a biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing and commercializing novel therapeutics from its proprietary cannabinoid product platform in a broad range of disease areas. GW is advancing an orphan drug program in the field of childhood-onset epilepsy with a focus on Epidiolex® (cannabidiol), which is in Phase 3 clinical development for the treatment of Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Tuberous Sclerosis Complex and Infantile Spasms. GW commercialized the world’s first plant-derived cannabinoid prescription drug, Sativex® (nabiximols), which is approved for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis in 31 countries outside the United States. The Company has a deep pipeline of additional cannabinoid product candidates which includes compounds in Phase 1 and 2 trials for glioma, schizophrenia and epilepsy. In the United States, GW operates through its subsidiary Greenwich Biosciences, Inc. For further information, please visit www.gwpharm.com.
About The National Institute for Health Research
Study lead author Professor Helen Cross is an NIHR Senior Investigator and is supported by the NIHR GOSH Biomedical Research Centre.
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): improving the health and wealth of the nation through research. Established by the Department of Health, the NIHR:
- funds high quality research to improve health
- trains and supports health researchers
- provides world-class research facilities
- works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all
- involves patients and the public at every step.