“Several new antiepileptic medicines became available for clinical use in the last two decades. However, the prognosis of epilepsy remains unchanged, with approximately one-third of patients continuing to have drug-resistant seizures. Because many of these patients are not candidates for curative epilepsy surgery, there is a need for new seizure medicines with better efficacy and safety profile.
Recently, social media and public pressure sparked a renewed interest in cannabinoids, which had been used for epilepsy since ancient times. However, physicians have significant difficulty prescribing cannabinoids freely because of the paucity of sound scientific studies.
Among the two most common cannabinoids, cannabidiol has better antiepileptic potential than tetrahydrocannabinol. The exact antiepileptic mechanism of cannabidiol is currently not known, but it modulates a number of endogenous systems and may have a novel anticonvulsant effect. However, it has broad drug-drug interactions with several agents, including inducer and inhibitor of CYP3A4 or CYP2C19. Cannabidiol can cause liver enzyme elevation, especially when co-administered with valproate.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol oil for two childhood-onset catastrophic epilepsies: Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
The Drug Enforcement Agency also reclassified this product as a schedule V agent. However, other cannabidiol products remain as a schedule I substance and are primarily used without regulation. Additionally, the FDA-approved pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol oil is expensive, and insurance companies might approve this only for the designated indications.
In despair, many individuals may resort to unregulated medical cannabis products in an attempt to control seizures. Rather than spontaneous treatment without medical supervision, adequate medical oversight is indicated to monitor and manage the proper dose, side effects, validity of the product, and drug-drug interactions.”
“Cannabidiol has been used for treatment-resistant seizures in patients with severe early-onset epilepsy. We investigated the efficacy and safety of cannabidiol added to a regimen of conventional antiepileptic medication to treat drop seizures in patients with the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe developmental epileptic encephalopathy.
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted at 30 clinical centers, we randomly assigned patients with the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (age range, 2-55 years) who had had 2 or more drop seizures per week during a 28-day baseline period to receive cannabidiol oral solution at a dose of 20 mg/kg of body weight (20-mg cannabidiol group) or 10 mg/kg (10-mg cannabidiolgroup) or matching placebo, administered in 2 equally divided doses daily for 14 weeks. The primary outcome was the percentage change from baseline in the frequency of drop seizures (average per 28 days) during the treatment period.
A total of 225 patients were enrolled; 76 patients were assigned to the 20-mg cannabidiol group, 73 to the 10-mg cannabidiol group, and 76 to the placebo group. During the 28-day baseline period, the median number of drop seizures was 85 in all trial groups combined. The median percentage reduction from baseline in drop seizure frequency during the treatment period was 41.9% in the 20-mg cannabidiol group, 37.2% in the 10-mg cannabidiol group, and 17.2% in the placebo group ( P = .005 for the 20-mg cannabidiol group vs placebo group, and P = .002 for the 10-mg cannabidiol group vs placebo group). The most common adverse events among the patients in the cannabidiol groups were somnolence, decreased appetite, and diarrhea; these events occurred more frequently in the higher dose group. Six patients in the 20-mg cannabidiol group and 1 patient in the 10-mg cannabidiol group discontinued the trial medication because of adverse events and were withdrawn from the trial. Fourteen patients who received cannabidiol (9%) had elevated liver aminotransferase concentrations.
Among children and adults with the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, the addition of cannabidiol at a dose of 10 or 20 mg/kg/d to a conventional antiepileptic regimen resulted in greater reductions in the frequency of drop seizures than placebo. Adverse events with cannabidiol included elevated liver aminotransferase concentrations. (Funded by GW Pharmaceuticals; GWPCARE3 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02224560.) Long-Term Safety and Treatment Effects of Cannabidiol in Children and Adults With Treatment-Resistant Epilepsies: Expanded Access Program Results Szaflarski JP, Bebin EM, Comi AM, et al; CBD EAP Study Group. Epilepsia. 2018;59(8):1540-1548.
Since 2014, cannabidiol (CBD) has been administered to patients with treatment-resistant epilepsies (TREs) in an ongoing expanded access program (EAP). We report interim results on the safety and efficacy of CBD in EAP patients treated through December 2016.
Twenty-five US-based EAP sites enrolling patients with TRE taking stable doses of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) at baseline were included. During the 4-week baseline period, parents/caregivers kept diaries of all countable seizure types. Patients received oral CBD starting at 2 to 10 mg/kg/d, titrated to a maximum dose of 25 to 50 mg/kg/d. Patient visits were every 2 to 4 weeks through 16 weeks and every 2 to 12 weeks thereafter. Efficacy end points included the percentage change from baseline in median monthly convulsive and total seizure frequency and percentage of patients with ≥50%, ≥75%, and 100% reductions in seizures versus baseline. Data were analyzed descriptively for the efficacy analysis set and using the last-observation-carried-forward method to account for missing data. Adverse events (AEs) were documented at each visit.
Of 607 patients in the safety data set, 146 (24%) withdrew; the most common reasons were lack of efficacy (89 [15%]) and AEs (32 [5%]). Mean age was 13 years (range, 0.4-62). Median number of concomitant AEDs was 3 (range, 0-10). Median CBD dose was 25 mg/kg/d; median treatment duration was 48 weeks. Add-on CBD reduced median monthly convulsive seizures by 51% and total seizures by 48% at 12 weeks; reductions were similar through 96 weeks. Proportion of patients with ≥50%, ≥75%, and 100% reductions in convulsive seizures were 52%, 31%, and 11%, respectively, at 12 weeks, with similar rates through 96 weeks. Cannabidiol was generally well tolerated; most common AEs were diarrhea (29%) and somnolence (22%).
Results from this ongoing EAP support previous observational and clinical trial data, showing that add-on CBD may be an efficacious long-term treatment option for TRE. Randomized, Dose-Ranging Safety Trial of Cannabidiol in Dravet Syndrome Devinsky O, Patel AD, Thiele EA, et al; GWPCARE1 Part A Study Group. Neurology. 2018;90(14):e1204-e1211.
To evaluate the safety and preliminary pharmacokinetics of a pharmaceutical formulation of purified cannabidiol (CBD) in children with Dravet syndrome.
Patients aged 4 to 10 years were randomized 4:1 to CBD (5, 10, or 20 mg/kg/d) or placebo taken twice daily. The double-blind trial comprised 4-week baseline, 3-week treatment (including titration), 10-day taper, and 4-week follow-up periods. Completers could continue in an open-label extension. Multiple pharmacokinetic blood samples were taken on the first day of dosing and at end of treatment for measurement of CBD, its metabolites 6-OH-CBD, 7-OH-CBD, and 7-COOH-CBD, and antiepileptic drugs (AEDs; clobazam and metabolite N-desmethylclobazam [N-CLB], valproate, levetiracetam, topiramate, and stiripentol). Safety assessments were clinical laboratory tests, physical examinations, vital signs, electrocardiograms, adverse events (AEs), seizure frequency, and suicidality.
Thirty-four patients were randomized (10, 8, and 9 to the 5, 10, and 20 mg/kg/d CBD groups and 7 to placebo); 32 (94%) completed treatment. Exposure to CBD and its metabolites was dose proportional (AUC0-t). Cannabidiol did not affect concomitant AED levels, apart from an increase in N-CLB (except in patients taking stiripentol). The most common AEs on CBD were pyrexia, somnolence, decreased appetite, sedation, vomiting, ataxia, and abnormal behavior. Six patients taking CBD and valproate developed elevated transaminases; none met criteria for drug-induced liver injury and all recovered. No other clinically relevant safety signals were observed.
Exposure to CBD and its metabolites increased proportionally with dose. An interaction with N-CLB was observed, likely related to CBD inhibition of cytochrome P450 subtype 2C19. Cannabidiol resulted in more AEs than placebo but was generally well tolerated.
CLASSIFICATION OF EVIDENCE:
This study provides class I evidence that for children with Dravet syndrome, CBD resulted in more AEs than placebo but was generally well tolerated.”
“Epilepsy is one of the most common chronic disorders of the brain affecting around 70 million people worldwide. Treatment is mainly symptomatic, and most patients achieve long-term seizure control. Up to one-third of the affected subjects, however, are resistant to anticonvulsant therapy.
Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome (DS) are severe, refractory epilepsy syndromes with onset in early childhood. Currently available interventions fail to control seizures in most cases, and there remains the need to identify new treatments.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the first in a new class of antiepileptic drugs. It is a major chemical of the cannabis plant, which has antiseizure properties in absence of psychoactive effects.
This article provides a critical review of the pharmacology of CBD and the most recent clinical studies that evaluated its efficacy and safety as adjunctive treatment of seizures associated with LGS and DS.”
“This article is an update from the article on antiepileptic drug (AED) therapy published in the last Continuum issue on epilepsy and is intended to cover the vast majority of agents currently available to the neurologist in the management of patients with epilepsy. Treatment of epilepsy starts with AED monotherapy. Knowledge of the spectrum of efficacy, clinical pharmacology, and modes of use for individual AEDs is essential for optimal treatment for epilepsy. This article addresses AEDs individually, focusing on key pharmacokinetic characteristics, indications, and modes of use.
Since the previous version of this article was published, three new AEDs, brivaracetam, cannabidiol, and stiripentol, have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and ezogabine was removed from the market because of decreased use as a result of bluish skin pigmentation and concern over potential retinal toxicity.Older AEDs are effective but have tolerability and pharmacokinetic disadvantages. Several newer AEDs have undergone comparative trials demonstrating efficacy equal to and tolerability at least equal to or better than older AEDs as first-line therapy. The list includes lamotrigine, oxcarbazepine, levetiracetam, topiramate, zonisamide, and lacosamide. Pregabalin was found to be less effective than lamotrigine. Lacosamide, pregabalin, and eslicarbazepine have undergone successful trials of conversion to monotherapy. Other newer AEDs with a variety of mechanisms of action are suitable for adjunctive therapy. Most recently, the FDA adopted a policy that a drug’s efficacy as adjunctive therapy in adults can be extrapolated to efficacy in monotherapy. In addition, efficacy in adults can be extrapolated for efficacy in children 4 years of age and older. Both extrapolations require data demonstrating that an AED has equivalent pharmacokinetics between its original approved use and its extrapolated use. In addition, the safety of the drug in pediatric patients has to be demonstrated in clinical studies that can be open label. Rational AED combinations should avoid AEDs with unfavorable pharmacokinetic interactions or pharmacodynamic interactions related to mechanism of action.
Knowledge of AED pharmacokinetics, efficacy, and tolerability profiles facilitates the choice of appropriate AED therapy for patients with epilepsy.”
“OBJECTIVE: To review the efficacy, safety, pharmacology and pharmacokinetics of pure, plant-derived cannabidiol (CBD; Epidiolex) in the treatment of Dravet syndrome (DS) and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS).
DATA SYNTHESIS: Pure, plant-based CBD is a pharmaceutical grade extract that exhibits clinically significant antiseizure properties, with a hypothesized multimodal mechanism of action. In the GWPCARE trial series, CBD displayed superior efficacy in reducing key seizure frequencies (convulsive seizures in DS; drop seizures in LGS) by 17% to 23% compared with placebo as adjunctive therapy to standard antiepileptic drugs in patients 2 years of age and older. Common adverse effects were somnolence, diarrhea, and elevated hepatic transaminases. Noteworthy drug-drug interactions included clobazam, valproates, and significant inducers/inhibitors of CYP2C19 and 3A4 enzymes.
Relevance to Patient Care and Clinical Practice: A discussion regarding CBD dosing, administration, adverse effects, monitoring parameters, and interactions is provided to guide clinicians. CBD offers patients with DS and LGS a new treatment option for refractory seizures.
This is the first cannabis-derived medication with approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. This CBD formulation significantly reduces seizures as an adjunct to standard antiepileptic therapies in patients ≥2 years old with DS and LGS and is well tolerated.”
“Why marijuana is headed for the mainstream. The credibility of cannabis as a source of a legitimate pharmaceutical ingredient in prescription medications took a major step forward in 2018 when the FDA approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol) for two types of severe seizures. Epidiolex was a stellar candidate for approval. It reduced convulsive seizures by about 40% and has a good safety profile.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30620324
“Purified cannabidiol is a new antiepileptic drug that has recently been approved for use in patients with Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, but most published studies have not extended beyond 12-16 weeks.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the long-term safety, tolerability, and efficacy of cannabidiol in children with epilepsy.
Twenty-six children were enrolled. Most had genetic epilepsies with daily or weekly seizures and multiple seizure types. All were refractory to prior antiepileptic drugs (range 4-11, mean 7), and were taking two antiepileptic drugs on average. Duration of therapy ranged from 4 to 53 months (mean 21 months). Adverse events were reported in 21 patients (80.8%), including reduced appetite in ten (38.4%), diarrhea in nine (34.6%), and weight loss in eight (30.7%). Four (15.4%) had changes in antiepileptic drug concentrations and three had elevated aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase levels when cannabidiol was administered together with valproate. Serious adverse events, reported in six patients (23.1%), included status epilepticus in three, catatonia in two, and hypoalbuminemia in one. Fifteen patients (57.7%) discontinued cannabidiol for lack of efficacy, one because of status epilepticus, and one for severe weight loss. The retention rate declined rapidly in the first 6 months and more gradually thereafter. At 24 months, the number of patients continuing cannabidiol as adjunctive therapy was nine of the original 26 (34.6%). Of these patients, seven (26.9%) had a sustained > 50% reduction in motor seizures, including three (11.5%) who remain seizure free.
Over a 4-year period, cannabidiol was effective in 26.9% of children with otherwise refractory epilepsy. It was well tolerated in about 20% of patients, but 80.8% had adverse events, including 23.1% with serious adverse events. Decreased appetite and diarrhea were frequent along with weight loss that became evident only later in the treatment.”
“Epilepsy is considered to be one of the most common non-communicable neurological diseases especially in low to middle-income countries. Approximately one-third of patients with epilepsy have seizures that are resistant to antiepileptic medications. Clinical trials for the treatment of medically refractory epilepsy have mostly focused on new drug treatments, and result in a significant portion of subjects whose seizures remain refractory to medication.
The off-label use of cannabis sativa plant in treating seizures is known since ancient times. The active ingredients of this plant are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), the latter considered safer and more effective in treating seizures, and with less adverse psychotropic effects.
Clinical trials prior to two years ago have shown little to no significant effects of cannabis in reducing seizures. These trials seem to be underpowered, with a sample size less than 15. In contrast, more recent studies that have included over 100 participants showed that CBD use resulted in a significant reduction in seizure frequency.
Adverse effects of CBD overall appear to be benign, while more concerning adverse effects (e.g., elevated liver enzymes) improve with continued CBD use or dose reduction. In most of the trials, CBD is used in adjunct with epilepsy medication, therefore it remains to be determined whether CBD is itself antiepileptic or a potentiator of traditional antiepileptic medications. Future trials may evaluate the efficacy of CBD in treating seizures due to specific etiologies (e.g., post-traumatic, post-stroke, idiopathic).”
“There are hundreds of compounds found in the marijuana plant, each contributing differently to the antiepileptic and psychiatric effects. Cannabidiol (CBD) has the most evidence of antiepileptic efficacy and does not have the psychoactive effects of ∆9 -tetrahydrocannabinol. CBD does not act via cannabinoid receptors and its antiepileptic mechanism of action is unknown. Despite considerable community interest in the use of CBD for paediatric epilepsy, there has been little evidence for its use apart from anecdotal reports, until the last year. Three randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trials in Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome found that CBD produced a 38% to 41% median reduction in all seizures compared to 13% to 19% on placebo. Similarly, CBD resulted in a 39% to 46% responder rate (50% convulsive or drop-seizure reduction) compared to 14% to 27% on placebo. CBD was well tolerated; however, sedation, diarrhoea, and decreased appetite were frequent. CBD shows similar efficacy to established antiepileptic drugs. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS: Cannabidiol (CBD) shows similar efficacy in the severe paediatric epilepsies to other antiepileptic drugs. Careful down-titration of benzodiazepines is essential to minimize sedation with adjunctive CBD.”
“Cannabis sativa contains many related compounds known as phytocannabinoids. The main psychoactive and non-psychoactive compounds are Δ9-tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), respectively.
Much of the evidence for clinical efficacy of CBD-mediated anti-epileptic effects has been from case reports or smaller surveys. The mechanisms for CBD’s anticonvulsant effects are unclear and likely involve non-cannabinoid receptor pathways.
CBD is reported to modulate several ion channels, including sodium channels (Nav). Evaluating therapeutic mechanisms and safety of CBD demands a richer understanding of its interactions with central nervous system targets. Here, we used voltage-clamp electrophysiology of HEK-293 cells and iPSC neurons to characterize the effects of CBD on Nav channels.
Our results show that CBD inhibits hNav1.1-1.7 currents, with an IC50 of 1.9-3.8 μM, suggesting that this inhibition could occur at therapeutically relevant concentrations. A steep Hill slope of ~3 suggested multiple interactions of CBD with Nav channels. CBD exhibited resting-state blockade, became more potent at depolarized potentials, and also slowed recovery from inactivation, supporting the idea that CBD binding preferentially stabilizes inactivated Nav channel states. We also found that CBD inhibits other voltage-dependent currents from diverse channels, including bacterial homomeric Nav channel (NaChBac) and voltage-gated potassium channel subunit Kv2.1. Lastly, the CBD block of Nav was temperature-dependent, with potency increasing at lower temperatures.
We conclude that CBD’s mode of action likely involves (1) compound partitioning in lipid membranes, which alters membrane fluidity affecting gating, and (2) undetermined direct interactions with sodium and potassium channels, whose combined effects are loss of channel excitability.”