Just a bit of Mary Jane to kick the shakes? In patients with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy from infancy, a new drug derived from marijuana has been successful in reducing convulsive seizures in its first clinical trial. GW Pharmaceuticals of London specializes in cannabis-based drugs (already selling Sativex to treat multiple sclerosis).
At least 30% of American children with epilepsy are not helped by existing drugs, and their parents have been trying marijuana extracts obtained at medical marijuana dispensaries. In the study, 120 patients with an average age of 10, and taking three other drugs, had seizure frequency drop by 39% during the 14 week treatment period. Nine patients withdrew from the study due to side effects, which include drowsiness, fatigue, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, but overall the drug was well tolerated.
Should Epidiolex be approved, it would be the first drug used in the U.S. extracted from marijuana. It is a liquid containing cannabidiol, a component of the plant that does not make people high. Two drugs already on the market, dronabinol and nabilone, are synthetic chemicals similar to THC, the component that produces highs. Those drugs treat nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy and weight/appetite loss in AIDS patients. Epidiolex will cost $2,500 to $5,000 per month, more than some other medical marijuana products, but may be covered by insurance (unlike other products).
Pollack, Andrew. “Marijuana-Based Drug Found to Reduce Epileptic Seizures.” Business Day. The New York Times, 14 Mar 2016. Web. 15 Mar 2016.