Efficacy and safety of cannabis for treating children with refractory epilepsy
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Efficacy and safety of cannabis for treating children with refractory epilepsy

Michelle Neale
Posted 11 September 2017

The aim of this literature review was to examine the evidence base for the safety and efficacy of cannabis in treating children with refractory epilepsy.

Clinical and medical databases were searched and four articles were included in the final analysis, which included retrospective reviews and open-label trials with a total sample size of 424. One clinical trial included administration of cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound of cannabis, while the other three articles stated that the compound administered to participants contained tetrahydrocannabidiol, the psychoactive constituent of cannabis.

Cannabis may reduce seizures in some children and young people with refractory epilepsy, however, its success may be affected by aetiology of the epilepsy or concomitant anti-epileptic drug use, and a therapeutic dose has not been found. Positive side effects were also found including improved sleep, alertness and mood. More research is needed on this subject, including randomised controlled trials. Nurses who are aware of patients and families wishing to trial cannabis for refractory epilepsy should have full and frank discussions.