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Cannabis reduces seizures for children with difficult-to-treat epilepsy, period pain in women

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Taking a pharmaceutical formulation of cannabidiol, a cannabis-based medicine, cut seizures nearly in half for children with a rare and severe type of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome, according to a phase 3 study released presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 71st Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, May 4 to 10, 2019. Dravet syndrome, which starts in infancy, can lead to intellectual disability and frequent, prolonged seizures. Cannabidiol is derived from marijuana that does not include the psychoactive part of the plant that creates a “high.”

“It’s exciting to be able to offer another alternative for children with this debilitating form of epilepsy and their families,” said study author Ian Miller, MD, of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, formerly Miami Children’s Hospital, in Florida. “The children in this study had already tried an average of four epilepsy drugs with no success and at the time were taking an average of three additional drugs, so to have this measure of success with cannabidiol is a major victory.”

The study involved 199 children with an average age of nine who were divided into three groups. One group received 20 milligrams per kilogramme (mg/kg) per day of cannabidiol, the second group received 10 mg/kg per day and the third group received a placebo. Seizures were recorded for four weeks before the treatments were started to establish a baseline. Then the participants received the treatment for 14 weeks. By the end of the study, seizures with convulsions had decreased for those taking the high dose of the drug by 46 percent and by 49 percent for those taking the lower dose of the drug, compared to 27 percent for those taking the placebo.

Total seizures reduced by 47 percent for those in the high dose group, by 56 percent for those in the lower dose group and by 30 percent for those in the placebo group. In the high dose group, 49 percent of the participants had their seizures cut in half or more, compared to 44 percent in the low dose group and 26 percent in the placebo group.

All of the groups reported side effects, with 90 percent of the high dose group, 88 percent of the low dose group and 89 percent of the placebo group. The most common side effects were decreased appetite, diarrhea, sleepiness, fever and fatigue. About 25 percent of those in the high dose group had serious side effects, compared to 20 percent of those in the low dose group and 15 percent of those in the placebo group.

Only participants in the high dose group stopped taking the drug due to side effects; that number was seven percent.

“Based on these results, dose increases above 10 mg/kg per day should be carefully considered based on the effectiveness and safety for each individual,” Miller said.

Meanwhile, most women say they would use cannabis to treat menstrual cramps and other kinds of gynecological pain, according to a new survey.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University, United States, interviewed more than 1,000 women across the country.

Sixty percent had used cannabis, mostly (36 percent) to treat pain, depression and anxiety. Those who hadn’t used the drug were not staunchly against it.

In fact, nearly two-thirds of the women who’ve never used cannabis (63 percent) said they would take the drug in a bid to ease their period pain or while getting IUD – a contraceptive implants – inserted.

The findings were presented last week at the annual conference for the American College of Gynecology, come as states across the US take years considering whether to add dysmenorrhea – severe menstrual cramps – as a condition for which doctors could prescribe medical marijuana.

“Cannabis products are currently being used by women both recreationally and medically. Most women would consider using cannabis to treat gynecologic conditions,” lead author Katie Alton, MD, said.

Eighty percent of women experience notable menstrual cramps, stemming from the lower abdomen but in some cases reaching the thighs, back and chest.

One in 10 experiences pain so intense it is comparable to a heart attack.

And yet, there is no treatment, beyond taking ibuprofen, which, for some, could mean six pills a day for up to a week every month.

Taking regular Tylenol or Advil can irritate the gut, exacerbating the bloating and indigestion that worsens period pains.

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