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Alabama researchers announce positive findings of Cannabidiol study
By Amy Yurkanin updated December 05, 2016 at 9:29 AM
About two-thirds of patients enrolled in a UAB study of marijuana-derived Cannabidiol oil for seizure treatment experienced major improvements in symptoms, according to a presentation this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society.
The study included 81 patients, 42 children and 39 adults, who have four seizures or more a month. UAB started the study in April 2015. The state legislature passed Carly’s Law, authorizing the research, a year earlier.
After one month of treatment with the oil, which contains traces of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, 68 percent of patients experienced a 25 percent reduction in the frequency of seizures, according to a press release. More than half of them experienced more than a 50 percent reduction in the number of seizures and 9 percent became seizure free over the course of the study.
More than two-thirds of treated patients experienced a decrease of more than 50 percent in seizure severity, according to the release.
“It is encouraging that both frequency and severity of seizures appear to improve in the majority of patients in our study, patients who have limited treatment options,” said Dr. Jerzy P. Szaflarski, professor in the Department of Neurology and director of the UAB Epilepsy Center, in a statement. “Our research adds to the evidence that CBD may reduce frequency of seizures, but we also found that it appears to decrease the severity of seizures, which is a new finding.”
Researchers also found that Cannabidiol oil could improve mood and cognition for some patients suffering from severe epilepsy. However, researchers also found interactions between the oil and common drugs used to treat epilepsy.
The small study showed improvements for many patients, but researchers still want to find out more about Cannabidiol oil’s effectiveness as an epilepsy treatment.
When Carly’s Law passed in 2014, it authorized a study of Cannabidiol oil to treat seizure disorders and designated UAB as the entity to carry out the research. Although many states have passed laws decriminalizing medical marijuana, Alabama has not. The state has passed legislation to decriminalize the use of Cannabidiol oil for people with certain medical conditions.
Carly’s Law was named for Carly Chandler of the Birmingham area, who suffers from intractable seizures. Her parents lobbied the legislature for passage of the law authorizing the study.
“These are encouraging results, but it is important to note that each patient may respond differently to CBD, and the dose for optimal seizures control varies,” said Dr. Martina Bebin, professor of neurology and co-primary investigator of the CBD studies, in a statement. “There appears to be an optimal CBD dose range where the patient achieves maximum benefit. If outside this CBD dosing range, the seizure frequency may not improve and may even increase. More research is needed, including determining why and how CBD helps some people with epilepsy but not others.”