CBD in the Treatment of Epilepsy

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“It has been several years since highly purified cannabidiol (CBD) was registered as a medication that can be used in children of at least 2 years of age to treat different types of seizures related to Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), Dravet syndrome (DS), and more recently tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC).

During this time, 39 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and 13 meta-analyses on the efficacy and safety of CBD treatment have been published. Each of the meta-analyses had its own criteria for the RCTs’ inclusion and, therefore, slightly different interpretations of the analyzed data.

Each of them contributed in its own way to the understanding of CBD pharmacology, mechanisms of therapeutic action, development of adverse reactions, and drug-drug interactions. Hence, it seemed reasonable to gather the most relevant data in one article and present all the current knowledge on the use of CBD in epilepsy.

The results of the 13 meta-analyses presented herein confirmed the effectiveness and safety of CBD in children and adolescents with DREs. In adults, reliable conclusions cannot be drawn due to insufficient data.”



Direct Inhibition of BK Channels by Cannabidiol, One of the Principal Therapeutic Cannabinoids Derived from Cannabis sativa

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“Cannabidiol (CBD), one of the main Cannabis sativa bioactive compounds, is utilized in the treatment of major epileptic syndromes. Its efficacy can be attributed to a multimodal mechanism of action that includes, as potential targets, several types of ion channels. In the brain, CBD reduces the firing frequency in rat hippocampal neurons, partly prolonging the duration of action potentials, suggesting a potential blockade of voltage-operated K+ channels. We postulate that this effect might involve the inhibition of the large-conductance voltage- and Ca2+-operated K+ channel (BK channel), which plays a role in the neuronal action potential’s repolarization. Thus, we assessed the impact of CBD on the BK channel activity, heterologously expressed in HEK293 cells. Our findings, using the patch-clamp technique, revealed that CBD inhibits BK channel currents in a concentration-dependent manner with an IC50 of 280 nM. The inhibition is through a direct interaction, reducing both the unitary conductance and voltage-dependent activation of the channel. Additionally, the cannabinoid significantly delays channel activation kinetics, indicating stabilization of the closed state. These effects could explain the changes induced by CBD in action potential shape and duration, and they may contribute to the observed anticonvulsant activity of this cannabinoid.”


“Taken together, our findings expand our understanding of the spectrum of ion channels directly modulated by CBD, suggesting a potential multitarget mechanism underlying its therapeutic effects. Finally, the widespread distribution and function of BK channels in human physiology and pathologies broaden the potential therapeutic uses of CBD to other conditions in which this channel is implicated.”


Caregiver-reported outcomes with real-world use of cannabidiol in Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome from the BECOME survey

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“Purpose: Plant-derived highly purified cannabidiol (CBD) reduced the frequency of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome (DS) and improved the overall condition of patients in placebo-controlled phase 3 clinical trials. Anecdotal reports also suggest a positive effect on nonseizure outcomes. In this study, we aimed to identify, through a caregiver survey which nonseizure outcomes were most likely to change in these patients.

Methods: The BEhavior, COgnition, and More with Epidiolex® (BECOME) was a 20-minute, cross-sectional, online survey that was developed with extensive input from caregivers, healthcare professionals, and epilepsy researchers, and was based on questions from validated measures and previously published caregiver reports. US-based caregivers (from Jazz Pharmaceuticals patient/caregiver database) of people with LGS or DS who were treated with CBD (Epidiolex®, 100 mg/mL oral solution) for ≥3 months were asked to compare the past month to the period before CBD initiation and rate their impression of changes using symmetrical Likert scales

Results: A total of 498 caregivers (97% parents) of patients with LGS (80%) or DS (20%) completed the survey. Mean (range) age of patients was 16 (1-73) years, and 52% were male. Patients were taking a median CBD dose of 14 mg/kg/d and median 4 concomitant antiseizure medications. A large proportion of respondents reported improvements in ≥1 survey question for all nonseizure-related domains: alertness, cognition, and executive function (85%); emotional functioning (82%); language and communication (79% in nonverbal patients and 74% in verbal); activities of daily living (51%); sleep (51%); and physical functioning (46%). Respondents reported improvements in seizure-related domains, including overall seizure frequency (85%), overall seizure severity (76%), seizure-free days per week for ≥1 seizure type (67%), and seizure freedom during the past month (16%). The majority of respondents who reported reduction in seizure frequency also reported improvements in nonseizure outcomes domains (51-80%). However, improvements in nonseizure outcomes (18-56%) were also reported in patients who either had no change or worsening of seizure frequency.

Conclusions: This survey characterized and quantified caregiver impression of changes in the seizure and nonseizure outcomes in patients taking add-on CBD treatment. Overall, 93% of caregivers reported planning to continue CBD treatment, primarily because of reduced seizure burden but also because of improvements in nonseizure-related outcomes. Despite the limitations that are associated with a retrospective survey-based study design, these results support further evaluation of the effect of CBD treatment on nonseizure outcomes among patients with LGS or DS.”



Cannabinoid treatments in epilepsy and seizure disorders

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“Cannabis was used to treat convulsions and other disorders since ancient times. In the last few decades, preclinical animal studies and clinical investigations have established the role of cannabidiol (CBD) in treating epilepsy and seizures and support potential therapeutic benefits for cannabinoids in other neurological and psychiatric disorders. Here, we comprehensively review the role of cannabinoids in epilepsy. We briefly review the diverse physiological processes mediating the central nervous system response to cannabinoids, including D9-THC, cannabidiol, and terpenes. Next, we characterize the anti- and proconvulsive effects of cannabinoids from animal studies of acute seizures and chronic epileptogenesis. We then review the clinical literature on using cannabinoids to treat epilepsy, including anecdotal evidence and case studies as well as the more recent randomized-controlled clinical trials that led to FDA approval of CBD for some types of epilepsy. Overall, we seek to evaluate our current understanding of cannabinoids in epilepsy and focus future research on unanswered questions.”



Highly purified cannabidiol in the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsies: A real-life impact on seizure frequency, quality of life, behavior, and sleep patterns from a single Italian center

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“Seizure frequency in treatment-resistant epilepsies seems to be decreased by cannabidiol (CBD), but contrasting data are available on its effect on sleep, behavior, and quality of life (QoL), and no data is reported on its effect on parental stress in patients with epilepsy (PWE). Thus, we conducted a retrospective study on a cohort of children and adults with drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE) who had been treated with highly purified, pharmaceutical-grade CBD to evaluate its effects on seizure frequency, QoL, behavior, parental stress, and sleep. Eighteen patients (12 adults and 6 children) were included in the cohort and followed for a median of 9 months. At the last follow-up (Tn), nine patients (50%) were considered CBD responders with at least a 50% decrease in seizure frequency. No serious adverse effects were found. No statistically significant differences were found concerning sleep, including daytime sleepiness, and no statistically significant effect was found on parental stress at Tn. An improvement was found for social interaction in quality of life (p < 0.05) for all patients.

Our results demonstrate that CBD is a safe and effective antiseizure medication (ASM).

CBD doesn’t seem to affect sleep measures in adults and children or worsen daytime sleepiness. However, CBD improves specific QoL measures, which could indicate a possible use of CBD for other childhood disabilities. No impact of CBD was seen on parental stress, which could possibly be due to the limited follow-up or could mean that parental stress is not dependent on seizure frequency.”


“Cannabidiol (CBD) is a safe and effective antiseizure medication (ASM).”


The therapeutic potential of purified cannabidiol

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“The use of cannabidiol (CBD) for therapeutic purposes is receiving considerable attention, with speculation that CBD can be useful in a wide range of conditions. Only one product, a purified form of plant-derived CBD in solution (Epidiolex), is approved for the treatment of seizures in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome, or tuberous sclerosis complex. Appraisal of the therapeutic evidence base for CBD is complicated by the fact that CBD products sometimes have additional phytochemicals (like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)) present, which can make the identification of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) in positive studies difficult. The aim of the present review is to critically review clinical studies using purified CBD products only, in order to establish the upcoming indications for which purified CBD might be beneficial.

The areas in which there is the most clinical evidence to support the use of CBD are in the treatment of anxiety (positive data in 7 uncontrolled studies and 17 randomised controlled trials (RCTs)), psychosis and schizophrenia (positive data in 1 uncontrolled study and 8 RCTs), PTSD (positive data in 2 uncontrolled studies and 4 RCTs) and substance abuse (positive data in 2 uncontrolled studies and 3 RCTs). Seven uncontrolled studies support the use of CBD to improve sleep quality, but this has only been verified in one small RCT. Limited evidence supports the use of CBD for the treatment of Parkinson’s (3 positive uncontrolled studies and 2 positive RCTs), autism (3 positive RCTs), smoking cessation (2 positive RCTs), graft-versus-host disease and intestinal permeability (1 positive RCT each). Current RCT evidence does not support the use of purified oral CBD in pain (at least as an acute analgesic) or for the treatment of COVID symptoms, cancer, Huntington’s or type 2 diabetes.

In conclusion, published clinical evidence does support the use of purified CBD in multiple indications beyond epilepsy. However, the evidence base is limited by the number of trials only investigating the acute effects of CBD, testing CBD in healthy volunteers, or in very small patient numbers. Large confirmatory phase 3 trials are required in all indications.”



Cannabidiol as an adjuvant treatment in adults with drug-resistant focal epilepsy

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“Cannabidiol oil (CBD) has been approved as an anti-seizure medication for the treatment of uncommon types of epilepsy, occurring in children: Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. There are few publications in relation to use the CBD in adult patients with focal drug-resistant epilepsy. The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy, tolerability, safety, and quality of life, of adjuvant treatment with CBD, in adult patients with drug-resistant focal epilepsy for at least 6 months. An open, observational, prospective cohort study was conducted using a before-after design (time series) in adult patients undergoing outpatient follow-up in a public hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From a total of 44 patients, 5% of patients were seizure-free, 32% of patients reduced more than 80% of their seizures and 87% of patients reduced 50% of their monthly seizures. Eleven percent presented a decrease of less than 50% in seizure frequency. The average final dose was 335 mg/d orally administered. Thirty-four percent of patients reported mild adverse events and no patient reported severe adverse effects. At the end of the study, we found in most patients a significant improvement in the quality of life, in all the items evaluated. Adjuvant treatment with CBD in adult patients with drug-resistant focal epilepsy was effective, safe, well tolerated, and associated with a significant improvement in their quality of life.”


“Most patients have a significant improvement in their quality of life.”


Highly purified cannabidiol improves stability and postural tone in adult patients with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome: a case series

“Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) is a severe developmental epileptic encephalopathy associated with numerous neurological signs and symptoms. Altered postural tone and the need for a caregiver-assisted wheelchair are features characterising patients with LGS.

Highly purified cannabidiol (CBD) is a novel antiseizure medication recommended for seizure treatment, in combination with clobazam, in patients with LGS. Adding CBD to the previous antiseizure medication treatment helps reduce seizure frequency, specifically drop seizures, in patients with LGS in both clinical trials and real-world studies. However, no data about drug effects on postural tone, motor activity, gait and stability are available.

In this case series, three adult patients diagnosed with LGS were treated with CBD as an add-on. During the follow-up, a slight improvement in seizure frequency was observed. Unexpectedly, an amelioration in postural tone and stability, measured using the validated Gross Motor Function Classification System, was also detected.

Our case series suggests that CBD may help manage patients with LGS regarding seizure control and improve other aspects of the clinical spectrum of the disease, such as postural tone and stability. The mechanisms at the basis of this improvement may be related, other than seizure reduction, to the drug’s effect on the brain locomotor centres, as demonstrated in animal model studies.”



Cannabidiol modulates excitatory-inhibitory ratio to counter hippocampal hyperactivity

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“Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-euphoric component of cannabis, reduces seizures in multiple forms of pediatric epilepsies, but the mechanism(s) of anti-seizure action remain unclear. In one leading model, CBD acts at glutamatergic axon terminals, blocking the pro-excitatory actions of an endogenous membrane phospholipid, lysophosphatidylinositol (LPI), at the G-protein-coupled receptor GPR55. However, the impact of LPI-GPR55 signaling at inhibitory synapses and in epileptogenesis remains underexplored. We found that LPI transiently increased hippocampal CA3-CA1 excitatory presynaptic release probability and evoked synaptic strength in WT mice, while attenuating inhibitory postsynaptic strength by decreasing GABAA2 and gephyrin puncta. LPI effects at excitatory and inhibitory synapses were eliminated by CBD pre-treatment and absent after GPR55 deletion. Acute pentylenetrazole-induced seizures elevated GPR55 and LPI levels, and chronic lithium-pilocarpine-induced epileptogenesis potentiated LPI’s pro-excitatory effects. We propose that CBD exerts potential anti-seizure effects by blocking LPI’s synaptic effects and dampening hyperexcitability.”



Real world data on cannabidiol treatment of various epilepsy subtypes: a retrospective, multicenter study

“Objective: Cannabidiol (CBD) is approved for treatment of Dravet syndrome (DS), Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), and tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). Several studies suggest anti-seizure effects also beyond these three epilepsy syndromes.

Methods: In a retrospective multi-center study, we analyzed the efficacy and tolerability of CBD in patients with epilepsy at 16 epilepsy centers.

Results: The study cohort comprised 311 patients with epilepsy with a median age of 11.3 (0-72) years (235 children and adolescents, 76 adults). Therapy with CBD was off-label in 91.3% of cases due to age, epilepsy subtype, lack of adjunct therapy with clobazam, and/or higher dose applied. CBD titration regimens were slower than recommended, with good tolerability of higher doses particularly in children. Of all patients, 36.9% experienced a reduction in seizure frequency of >50%, independent of their epilepsy subtype or clobazam co-medication. The median observation period was 15.8 months. About one third of all patients discontinued therapy within the observation period due to adverse effects or lack of efficacy. Adverse effects were reported frequently (46.9%).

Significance: Our study highlights that CBD has an anti-seizure effect comparable to other anti-seizure medications with a positive safety profile independent of the epilepsy subtype. Comedication with clobazam was not associated with a better outcome. Higher doses to achieve seizure frequency reduction were safe, particularly in children. These findings call for further trials for an extended approval of CBD for other epilepsy subtypes and for children < 2 years of age.”