A recent study published in the journal BMJ Paediatrics Open found that children treated with whole-plant medicinal cannabis products displayed an average 86% reduction in seizure frequency.
All of the children participating in the study had previously failed to respond to Epidyolex, a cannabis-based product prescribed on the NHS which contains only CBD isolate. CBD isolate is usually powder form, or some retailers also sell CBD crystals. This is what the CBD crystals look like:
The researchers are now calling for further exploration of the potential therapeutic benefits of whole plant medicinal cannabis products vs. products containing only pure CBD.
Medical cannabis was made legal for prescription in the UK in 2018, yet only three prescriptions have been issued for whole-plant cannabis-based medicines in the three years since. Despite anecdotal and real-world evidence supporting the use of whole-plant cannabis, specifically in children with severe epilepsy, the NHS is still reluctant to prescribe whole-plant cannabis products, citing a lack of evidence (sure right…).
Participants were recruited from two charities, MedCann Support and End our Pain, representing children using medicinal cannabis to treat their severe epilepsy. The children’s average age was six but ranged from 1 to 13 years. Data was collected from parents and carers via phone or video calls between January and May 2021.
On average, children in the study had tried seven conventional epilepsy drugs. After taking medicinal cannabis, this fell to an average of 1, with 7 of the participants stopping conventional drugs completely. The monthly seizure frequency was reduced for all ten children by an overall average of 86%.
In addition, parents and carers reported significant improvements in the overall health and wellbeing of their children, including in sleep, eating, behavior and cognition after they started to take whole-plant cannabis products. A few minor side effects were reported, such as tiredness.
Commenting on the findings, researchers said “This study shows the effectiveness of whole-plant medical cannabis in a group of patients suffering from severe, intractable childhood-onset epilepsies. The reduction in monthly seizure frequency in our group demonstrates the feasibility for this medication in such patients.”
Limitations in the results were noted, specifically around the study’s small size. Additionally, researchers acknowledge that data was collected retrospectively, relying on parent/carer recall, although many use seizure diaries. There was no placebo or control group, and there may be some bias in reporting from parents and carers.
“Such a move would be hugely beneficial to the families, who in addition to having the psychological distress of looking after their chronically ill children, have also to cover the crippling financial burden of their medication.”