Child with epilepsy

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Professor Ingrid Scheffer reviews research on medicinal cannabis for epilepsy

What hope does cannabidiol – or medicinal cannabis – offer to the desperate parents of children with severe epilepsies?

Austin Health Director of Paediatrics, Prof Ingrid Scheffer is co-author of a new British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology review that examines the potential of medicinal cannabis-or medical marijuana-for helping patients with intractable epilepsy, in which seizures fail to come under control with standard anticonvulsant treatment.

The authors note that cannabidiol-the most researched compound of cannabis-may have modest efficacy and be appropriate for children with severe epilepsy, but attention must be paid to potential side effects and drug interactions. There is no evidence to guide physicians in ranking cannabidiol among current antiepileptic drugs, and it will be important to continue studying its potential through rigorous clinical trials

Recognising the hype - and hope - around medicinal cannabis for parents of children with severe epilepsies, Prof. Scheffer and her co-author, Dr. John Anthony Lawson, of Sydney Children's Hospital, write that:

"Cannabidiol is a medicine, not a miracle and should be managed as such. Epilepsy care will not improve if we as a community support a laissez-faire approach. It is hoped that further investment in class I trials and high level research is encouraged and continues."

"The emergence over the past 12 months of the first successful double-blind randomized controlled trials of cannabidiol is good news for some desperate families of children with severe epilepsy. These studies are a reminder though that this drug is no miracle, and we still have much to learn," says Dr. John Lawson.

For more information contact Austin Health's Julie McNamara on 0419 595 688.