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By Steve Birr
A groundbreaking research study is confirming that a compound derived from marijuana works to treat a severe form of childhood epilepsy that currently lacks effective medication.
Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the New York University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, worked with colleagues around the country to test the efficacy of treatment with cannabidiol oil (CBD), the non-psychoactive component found in marijuana. The researchers enrolled in their study 120 patients with Dravet syndrome, a rare and potentially fatal form of epilepsy that does not respond to traditional treatments, reports NBC News.
Over a 14-week period half the group was given CBD while the other group received a placebo. The group treated with CBD experienced a 39 percent decline in the frequency of seizures, cutting an average of 12 seizures per month down to six. Three patients stopped having seizures entirely while getting treated with CBD oil.
“Quite remarkably, 5 percent of the children in the active treatment group with CBD were completely seizure free during the 14 weeks of the trial,” Devinsky told NBC News. “And these were kids who were often having dozens of seizures, if not many more than that per week. There’s no doubt for some children this is just been an incredibly effective and game changing medication for them.”
The study is a major win for CBD advocates and doctors researching the compound, who have to deal with burdensome roadblocks to study the substance.
The designation of marijuana as a Schedule I drug alongside deadly narcotics limits researchers’s abilities to study the medical application of weed. The status means the U.S. government does not recognize any medicinal benefit to cannabis or the plant’s derivatives.
“For 3,800 years, healers and physicians have been prescribing cannabis and documented that use to treat epilepsy,” Devinsky told NBC News. “After nearly 4,000 years we, for the first time, have vigorous scientific data that a compound from cannabis works to treat epilepsy.”