In order to understand how synthetic cannabis affects severe epilepsy, a small group of children with this medical condition will be taking the designer drugs during a clinical trial in Australia.
Ten children with severe epilepsy and whose conditions have not yet improved despite trying anti-epilepsy drugs will all be undergoing the clinical trial in Melbourne this February.
Ingrid Scheffer, director of Austin Health where the trial will be conducted, said it is the first medical marijuana trial for kids with epilepsy in Australia.
She said the trial, will expand to include 60 children by the end of 2016, as part of global efforts to fathom the effects of cannabis to epilepsy.
The medical marijuana that will be administered in the study is developed by Insys Therapeutics Inc., a pharmaceutical company in the United States. The drug is based from cannabidiol, a therapeutic compound found in cannabis.
Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, said Australia will be allocating $150,000 to the medical trial.
"[Medicinal cannabis] can potentially provide enormous benefits ... to the quality of life of children that suffer from very severe forms of a whole range of different neurological conditions," said Andrews.
Meanwhile, Scheiffer said medical marijuana is a safe option. Aside from cannabidiol, cannabis also contains THC, the psychoactive component of the plant, but she said they won't be giving that to patients.
The results from the first of three trial phases will be released by the end of 2016, she said.
Incidentally, two studies published in 2015 found that marijuana extracts can indeed help reduce and control seizures that children with epilepsy experience.
The first study examined how Epidiolex, a marijuana extract with cannabidiol, would affect patients with epilepsy whose average age was 11 years old.
After three months, the seizure episodes of the children were lowered by 45 percent. About half of the participants had reduced seizure episodes by 50 percent or higher. One of the patients also became free of seizure episodes.
The second study examined the long-term effects of the cannabidiol oil and gave it to 25 children for 12 months.
Researchers found that 10 of the patients reduced their seizure episodes by 50 percent, while one became seizure-free. The results of the two studies were good news for medical experts.
Photo : Carlos Gracia | Flickr