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23 September 2019

Epilepsy Society welcomes European approval of medicinal cannabis for severe childhood epilepsies

Epilepsy Society's medical director Professor Ley Sander has cautiously welcomed a decision by the European Commission to approve Epidyolex in the treatment of two severe childhood epilepsies.

Epidyolex is a pharmaceutical grade cannabidiol (CBD) derived from the cannabis plant. Although it contains CBD, it does not contain THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, known for giving people a 'high'.

Epidyolex has been trialled for many years in the treatment of Dravet syndrome and Lennox Gastaut spectrum, both of which can result in multiple seizures every day. The medication has been developed by GW Pharmaceuticals for use in combination with clobazam.

Reducing seizures

Ley Sander, Medical Director at Epilepsy Society and Professor of Neurology at UCL said: “There is evidence to show that pharmaceutical grade CBD, under the trade name Epidyolex, is effective in reducing seizures in some children with Dravet syndrome and Lennox Gastaut spectrum.

"These are both severe childhood epilepsies which can be very debilitating. This new drug will bring hope for some families and European approval feels like a positive step.

Medical minefield

"Medicinal cannabis, however, still remains a medical minefield and there are many hurdles ahead. CBD was not recommended by NICE for prescription on the NHS. It is important that the pharmaceutical industry continues to work with the medical advisory body to ensure that drugs are cost effective and that its long-term effects are clear.

“It is important that the medical profession, regulatory and advisory bodies remain level-headed in ensuring that the medications prescribed to people in the UK are rigorously tested and economically viable. If a drug holds promise in treating a condition, it is important that it is available for all those who require it and that it does not become another victim of a postcode lottery.”