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This article was published in October 2012. The information may be out of date. Please check our epilepsy information or our site A-Z.

‘Milestone’ epilepsy drug based on cannabis

25 Oct 2012

cannabis croppedA collaboration between a UK research team and international medicine manufacturers may lead to a ‘milestone’ treatment for epilepsy. This treatment appears more bearable than current epilepsy medicines – and is based on cannabis.

A research team at the University of Reading performed the research, which was recently published in The British Journal of Pharmacology. Their research explored the use of cannibidivarin – a natural chemical called a ‘cannabinoid’ from the cannabis plant.

Cannibidivarin does not have psychoactive properties (anyone taking a drug based on this chemical will not feel ‘high’ as a result). It appears to reduce seizure frequency in laboratory animals with epilepsy and has fewer side-effects than traditional epilepsy medicines. The new drug can also be safely combined with regular medications.

Lead study author, Dr Ben Whalley, said: “This is an enormously exciting milestone in our investigations into non-psychoactive elements of cannabis as treatments for epilepsy. Our work has highlighted the potential for a solution based on cannabinoid science. It has shown that cannabidivarin is the most effective and best tolerated anticonvulsant plant cannabinoid investigated to date.”

The Reading team is working with UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals and the global drugs manufacturer, Otsuka. A similar drug has already been commercially released by GW Pharmaceuticals. The drug is called Sativex and is used in treating spasticity (tightness of the muscles) in people with multiple sclerosis.

The Reading team intend to have finished their research by the end of 2012. After that, the pharmaceutical companies will continue to develop a commercial drug. GW Pharmaceuticals intends to begin trials of cannabidivarin in human epilepsy in 2013.

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