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Human trials of cannabis treatment

27 Sep 2013

After a lengthy pre-clinical research programme at the University of Reading, GW Pharmaceuticals has begun human trials of a chemical compound found in cannabis. This compound appears to help control seizures and with relatively few side-effects

The evidence surrounding the use of cannabis to treat epilepsy has a long and complex history. Whether the drug can effectively treat seizures has been hotly debated – particularly recently.

Several high-profile cases in the US have led to the use of some chemicals derived from cannabis – called ‘cannabinoids’ – being used to treat severe childhood epilepsies. The laws in some states of America have even been changed to allow this.

Several different chemical compounds found in cannabis have recently been tested during a pre-clinical research programme at the University of Reading. This process identified a particular compound that seems very promising as a treatment for epilepsy.

cannabis plantThe compound is called GWP42006. It is non-psychoactive, which means that (despite the reputation of cannabis as a recreational drug) it does not make you ‘high’. According to the data from the Reading programme, it does help control seizures.

Dr Ben Whalley is Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology at the Reading School of Pharmacy. In a statement issued by GW Pharmaceuticals, Dr Whalley said: “Our research collaboration with GW Pharmaceuticals over the last several years has shown that GWP42006 not only exerts anticonvulsant effects… but is also better tolerated compared to existing anti-epileptic drugs.”

Dr Whalley went on to point out that GWP42006 “appears to employ a different mechanism of action to existing anti-epileptic drugs”. This means that the exact way it controls seizures is different from how other medications work. In turn, this means that people with epilepsy whose seizures cannot be controlled with current treatments might respond to this one.

GW Pharmaceuticals has now begun human trials of GWP42006 with a view to developing the compound into an epilepsy medication. For more information, read the GW Pharmaceuticals press release or read about the University of Reading pre-clinical research programme.

Comments: read the 6 comments or add yours


Hi my son is 27years old he started having seizures at the age of 22 months old until then he was a very normal child but after each seizure and so many drugs he is now has brain damage and is very limited I have to do everything for him and with lots of meds he still has seizures all the time and is now having times when he is violent and I no it's the epilepsy that is causing this so we are now desperate to try this to see if he can be helped and we can continue to keep him at home where he belongs and is loved but it's getting harder and harder and have had very little help from the experts we really need to try this as nothing else has worked.

Submitted by Mel Coles on

Hello All,

With regards to my epilepsy, I was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy and have simple partial and complex partial seizures at the age of 23 yrs old. I was a smoker of cannabis and was told at the time to stop smoking. I did for a while and found my seizures increased in both severity and amount taken.

I started smoking cannabis again and found my seizures decreased in amount and also in severity.

I am now 37 yrs old and after 14 yrs of reading have come to the conclusion that the de ja vu and images of the classroom teacher appearing smaller in image were not 'normal' and were actually simple partial seizures.

I had these simple partial seizures from approx 11-16 yrs old (not realising that these were seizures and believing they were 'normal') therefore not reporting them.

I moved out at 16 and started smoking cannabis whereby between the age of 16 and 23 I was not taking seizures. I started taking these seizures again at 23 and do now fully believe that my partial seizures were controlled between the age of 16 and 23 yrs old by cannabis and my seizures since then have increased to tonic clonic seizures however are controlled to a certain extent by cannabis and therefore instead of taking generalized seizures I take partial partial seizures as due to the fact that if I do not smoke cannabis I take generalized seizures.

Submitted by John Markie on

Hello everybody
I started smoking weed when I was young, I stopped for 4 months and had constant partial seizures and started having big fits I went through a lot of meds eg kepprA which made me like the Incredible Hulk, lamotrigen which gave me a rash, so many others with mental side effects, it changed my taste buds my hobbies I didn't even know who I was. i found that sodium valproate Kinda gave me little side effects but still had the small ones so tried clobazam , lacosamide and then pregabalin all with the most horrible buzzed out effects to the point where I couldn't walk in a straight line, I stopped them and took cannabis and sodium valproate, I've built fences made sheds out of things I have a nice garden now all because off this stuff, it's the only thing hat has ever made me feel like this and I feel likes id Isn't even have epilepsy today I haven't taken anything apart from cannabis for 3 months I have a few partials a week on a bad week and haven't had a fit since I have done this do you think this is worth keepin up I haven't even told my epilepsy specialist because I'm scared lol sorry about wafflin on

Submitted by Charliegoodz on

Hi Charliegoodz
It’s good that your quality of life is so much better now. However, there’s no conclusive information on using weed to help with epilepsy. Cannabis can affect people differently every time. They might have more or less seizures.

If you need further information on using weed, you could talk to your GP. It’s possible they will have spoken to other patients who use weed to help with long term medical conditions. Otherwise, you could contact Frank. Frank is a confidential helpline for anyone in the UK with questions about drug use.

Diane Wallace
Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Diane, Epilepsy... on

It's been almost four years... Has there been any progress in this area?

Submitted by Michael Fosbrooke on

My sister told me that cannabis oil helps many people with epilepsy. Is it available to buy in shops?

Submitted by Brian Hazlett on

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