Clinical trials of cannabis used to treat epilepsy shows promising results

Posted at 9:51 PM, Apr 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-26 23:51:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY – Could a pharmaceutical grade cannabis help treat young women with severe epilepsy? That’s what researchers at the University of Utah and Primary Children’s Hospital have been looking into the past two years.

“Most of the patients we treat have already been on trials of over 5 usually more than 10 seizure medications or other treatments. Those have been unsuccessful,” said Dr. Francis Filloux, who is overseeing the clinical trials.

Young patients have been taking Epidiolex, a liquid form of Cannabidiol.

Researchers say early clinical results are promising with patients reporting a 40 percent decrease in the amount and severity of seizures.

“There have been mild side effects most of them have been tolerable. For example, children have had diarrhea because of the oil the substance is dissolved in some have been more tired, some changes in appetite,” Filloux said.

Johanne Holme’s son Porter is participating in the clinical trials.

“Eight weeks after he was born, he had his first seizure,” Holmes said.

The 8-year-old finds comfort with his service dog, Thumper, but endures severe seizures.

“He was having at least four or more a month,” Holmes said.

Porter is taking several medications to treat his seizures, but so far nothing has worked.

In July, he began taking Epidiolex and his mom is seeing a big improvement.

“He’s speaking more. He’s interacting more,” Holmes said.

Holme’s understands people’s reservations about the medication. She encourages people to do their homework.

“You have to go in with it with an open mind that it could possibly not work, but fortunately for us it has significantly improved his life,” she said.

Researchers will wrap up testing within the next six months. If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the medication could be on the market within two years.