Carly’s Law study at UAB finds medical marijuana oil helps epilepsy patients

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It’s official: cannabidiol, or CBD oil, oil derived from marijuana plants, helps reduce the number of seizures in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy. That’s according to findings by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) released earlier this month.

CBD oil, which contains little of the “high-inducing” chemical THC, came into the Alabama lexicon with the passage of “Carly’s Law,” in 2014 after piece of legislation provided the UAB Epilepsy Center and Children’s of Alabama the ability to conduct clinical trials of cannabidiol, a component of cannabis.

Starting in 2015, UAB launched the landmark study, which focused on 132 patients, 72 children and 60 adults, with intractable epilepsy who did not respond to traditional therapies. “The study analyzed data from the 132 patients at baseline and at visits at 12, 24 and 48 weeks. Seizure frequency decreased from a mean of 144 seizures every two weeks at baseline to 52 seizures over two weeks at 12 weeks into the study. The reduction remained stable through the 48-week study period,” wrote Bob Shepard at UAB.

“This is a highly significant reduction in the number of seizures that the majority of patients experienced, nearly a two-thirds reduction across the entire study population,” said Martina Bebin, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurology in the School of Medicine and principal investigator of the pediatric arm of the study. “Some patients experienced an even greater reduction of seizure frequency.”

The investigators also noted parallel decreases in both seizure severity and seizure frequency, indicating that, for many patients, use of CBD oil led to both fewer and less intense seizures.

UAB research makes national impact

Thanks in part to the research coming out of UAB, on June 25, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex® for seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, marking the first FDA approval of a purified drug derived from cannabis.

“This approval serves as a reminder that advancing sound development programs that properly evaluate active ingredients contained in marijuana can lead to important medical therapies. And, the FDA is committed to this kind of careful scientific research and drug development,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.

“Controlled clinical trials testing the safety and efficacy of a drug, along with careful review through the FDA’s drug approval process, is the most appropriate way to bring marijuana-derived treatments to patients. Because of the adequate and well-controlled clinical studies that supported this approval, prescribers can have confidence in the drug’s uniform strength and consistent delivery that support appropriate dosing needed for treating patients with these complex and serious epilepsy syndromes.”

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