Researchers at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children are poised to begin a clinical trial using cannabis extracts to treat children with severe epilepsy whose seizures can’t be controlled with existing medications.
The trial is believed to be the first in Canada to test an oral preparation that contains both CBD and THC, compounds in marijuana that have been shown in the lab and through anecdotal reports to have anticonvulsant properties in children with treatment-resistant epilepsy.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of hundreds of active chemicals in the marijuana plant, many of them touted to have medicinal properties. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ingredient that produces the “high” associated with pot.
While research has found CBD to be effective in reducing seizures, there has been no rigorous study that’s looked at the combination of CBD and THC, said pediatric neurologist Dr. Blathnaid McCoy, who will lead the clinical trial that begins early next year.
But finding a new therapy is critical: despite doctors having an arsenal of more than 40 anticonvulsant medications, 30 per cent of their patients with severe epilepsy are unable to get their seizures under control with any of the drugs.
“There are severe developmental, cognitive, behavioural, and motor delays that happen when children have uncontrolled epilepsy,” said Catherine Jacobson, director of clinical research at Tilray, a B.C.-based medicinal marijuana producer that will be providing the oral CBD-THC preparation for the clinical trial.