Cannabidiol “helps reduce drop attacks”

Published: February 02 2018
Last updated: October 11 2022

Cannabidiol (CBD) may help reduce atonic seizures – or drop attacks – in people with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). This is according to a new study in The Lancet published in January 2018.

The study authors looked at how effective CBD (GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex) is as an addition to people with LGS’ current epilepsy medicines.

They looked at 171 people with LGS aged 2-55 years old, who had at least two atonic seizures a week. None of the people in the study had responded to treatment with at least two epilepsy medicines. The research lasted 14 weeks.

The researchers found that in people taking CBD, the monthly atonic seizures fell by more than 2 in 5 (43.9%). In a comparison group taking a substance without therapeutic effect, atonic seizures fell by 1 in 5 (21.8%).

The study found mild or moderate side-effects in both groups. They were most commonly diarrhoea, drowsiness, high temperature, low appetite and vomiting.

The study authors concluded that CBD is effective in treating atonic seizures in people with LGS. They added that the long-term effectiveness and safety is currently being looked at.

GW Pharmaceuticals has submitted a New Drug Application (NDA) with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Epidiolex. This would be for the treatment of rare epilepsies like Dravet syndrome and LGS. If the application is accepted, this medicine could be available in the US from the second half of 2018.

The company has also submitted a similar application with the European Medicines Agency (EMA). A decision from the EMA is expected early next year.

Simon Wigglesworth, deputy chief executive at Epilepsy Action said: “These latest research findings are extremely encouraging to help people with rare forms of epilepsy to gain better seizure control.

“The study focused on Lennox-Gastaut syndrome which occurs in between 1 and 5 in every 100 children with epilepsy.

“Children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome usually experience drop attacks and fall to the ground, injuring themselves. They will also develop learning disabilities that can be moderate to severe.”

CBD is produced from the cannabis plant. It is the part of the plant that does not produce the psychogenic effect of feeling ‘high’. There is more information on CBD on the Epilepsy Action website.