Researchers are continuously finding that an oil derived from the cannabis plant is actually incredibly effective in treating and controlling a rare form of epilepsy. Since an estimated 30,000 Americans live with the particular form of this disease, this relatively recent discovery brings new hope to tens of thousands of people in helping them to regain control of their lives.
In light of these discoveries, pharmaceutical companies have taken action in creating a pharmaceutical drug derived from the cannabis oil. The drug has been produced at GW Pharmaceuticals, which is based in London. It contains a high dose of cannabidiol, which is found within marijuana plants.
Those worried about getting high while taking the drug, which will be called Epidiolex, should be aware that it only contains a very small amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is the compound that makes people feel “high” from smoking marijuana.
The drug targets a rare form of epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which usually begins around ages 3-5 in children. It will be safe to give to kids, as the compounds which make drug users feel the “high” is only present in trace amounts.
Those with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome have on average 74 seizures that result in falling on the floor each month. Patients in the trial were tested against a control group receiving a placebo. Those who took the actual medication found their seizures reduced by 44 percent, while those in the placebo group found their seizures reduced by 22 percent.
After announcing the triumph of this new medication, stocks in the company went up nearly 21 percent in the United Kingdom and 17 percent in the United States.
Epidiolex has also been proven to be effective in controlling Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that only 6,000 children in the United States currently live with. After this announcement, stocks soared again, this time by 120 percent of their original share.
During the study, several patients had adverse side effects, which resulted in twelve participants discontinuing the medication due to being unable to cope with them. These side effects included mostly gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, diarrhea, and a decreased appetite. In a few cases, excessive sleepiness also occurred.
Contingent on another study of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, the drug should be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by the first half of 2017.
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.