Now that we’ve gotten the basics of cannabidiol down, let’s talk about the role hemp extract plays in epilepsy. There have been many media reports on the use of hemp oil to help improve the number of seizures patients are experiencing on a daily basis. In June of 2018, the FDA approved a cannabidiol oral solution, Epidiolex, as the first hemp extract-based product available on the United States drug market.
Epidiolex is a pharmaceutical-grade version of hemp oil at a concentration of 100 milligrams per milliliter. Most hemp oils sold as supplements are around a 60-80 mg/mL concentration with possible varying purities.
Epidiolex was approved after phase 3 trials conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals showed clinically significant improvements in reducing seizure frequency for two types of severe epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. In both trials, hemp extract oral solution was given at a dose of 10 or 20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight over a period of 14 weeks. Patients were then assessed on how often they experienced seizures during that time period compared to a period when they were not using the hemp extract oral solution. The results from both studies showed that the hemp extract oral solution reduced the number of seizures experienced in both types of epilepsy. In Lennox-Gestaut syndrome, on average, there was about a 40% reduction in seizure frequency in those taking the hemp extract oral solution. With Dravet syndrome, about 43% of patients experienced at least a 50% reduction in seizure frequency. Both these studies showed significant results, leading to the approval of Epidiolex by the FDA.
No medication comes without its disadvantages, namely through side effects. The main side effects that were experienced with this specific dosage of hemp extract in the trials were:
- Decreased appetite
Additionally, a small percentage of patients experienced abnormal results on a liver function test.
It is quite promising to see results from clinical trials like these that were conducted on epilepsy patients leading to an approval of a prescription medication by the FDA. Not only does this the beginning for cannabinoid being more widely adopted in therapy, but it also opens doors for practitioners to begin thinking about the many uses hemp extract may provide.