08:34pm Friday 26 May 2017

Cannabidiol study will explore treatment for epilepsy

Image with caption: Broc Bartenhagen (left), a 14-year-old from Gretna, Neb., with drug resistant epilepsy, is a potential candidate for the cannabidiol study being conducted at UNMC. He's seen here with his father, Mike Bartenhagen.

Broc Bartenhagen (left), a 14-year-old from Gretna, Neb., with drug resistant epilepsy, is a potential candidate for the cannabidiol study being conducted at UNMC. He’s seen here with his father, Mike Bartenhagen.

The study was made possible by Legislative Bill 390 sponsored by State Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue. The bill, which the Nebraska Legislature passed in 2015, authorized UNMC to conduct the study. It allocated $500,000 in state funding to UNMC to cover the clinical and administrative costs of the study. GW Pharmaceuticals, which is based in the United Kingdom, is supplying the drug being used in the study, called Epidiolex®, for free.

Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid that is extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant and is distinct from tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC), the cannabinoid that is responsible for the drug-related high. Epidiolex is a plant-based pharmaceutical formulation of pure cannabidiol. GW’s plant-based pharmaceutical formulation of pure cannabidiol contains only trace amounts of THC.

A recent study using GW’s Epidiolex for patients with Dravet syndrome, a rare genetic form of epileptic encephalopathy (dysfunction of the brain), demonstrated a 39 percent reduction in seizure frequency compared to 13 percent for the placebo, said Chris Kratochvil, M.D., associate vice chancellor for clinical research at UNMC and vice president of research for Nebraska Medicine, UNMC’s clinical partner.

“There are individuals in Nebraska who suffer from treatment-resistant seizures for which currently available treatment options have been ineffective,” said Deepak Madhavan, M.D., assistant professor of neurological sciences at UNMC and principal investigator for the study. “Clinical studies involving Epidiolex have shown promise in treating individuals with these seizures, and this study will broaden our knowledge of the safety and effectiveness of cannabidiol in treating these patients.”

Doctor-to-doctor letters will be sent to neurologists and pediatricians across the state outlining details of the study, including the inclusion/exclusion criteria for patients and the necessary records and paperwork needed for review. Patients must work with their provider to have records sent if they are interested in learning more about potentially participating in the study.

Information gained from the study will be used to better understand the potential role of cannabidiol as a novel treatment for epilepsy. The hope is that this information will ultimately facilitate development of approaches to better treat patients with treatment-resistant seizures.

By Tom O’Connor, UNMC public relations


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