Epilepsy Treatment

Epileptic seizures require medication for their control. Anticonvulsants are the drugs that facilitate this kind of symptom relief. Epilepsy treatment depends on a number of variables which is addressed individually per patient.

The factors to consider are:

  • frequency of seizure activity
  • severity of seizures
  • patient age
  • the overall health of the patient
  • previous medical history

There must be an accurate diagnosis of the type of epilepsy in finding the best suited treatment.

Medication in the treatment of Epilepsy

There are a number of newer medications used to treat epilepsy alongside a number of older more traditional medications. 

Of the Older Epilepsy Medications prescribed:

  • Dilantin or Phenytek
  • Phenobarbital
  • Tegretol or Carbatrol
  • Mysoline
  • Zarontin
  • Depakene
  • Depakote, Depakote ER
  • Valium
  • Tranxene
  • Klonopin

Newer medications to treat epilepsy include:

  • Felbatol
  • Gabitril
  • Neurontin
  • Keppra
  • Lamictal
  • Trileptal

The choice for a patient is almost always based on factors specific to each patient. This is typically whether certain side effects will be tolerated, other medications they may be taking and the method of administration. 

There are 3 types of side effects that are typical for epilepsy medication:

Common side effects.

Those that fall within this category are generic side effects.

 i.e.)  blurry or double vision, extreme fatigue or sleepiness, nausea, balance and coordination may be unsteady.

Idiosyncratic side effects.

Those that are considered idiosyncratic are unpredictable side effects which are not related to the dose and are typically rare. 

i.e.) skin rashes, liver problems or low blood cell count

Unique side effects.

These types of side effects are unique in that they will not be a shared side effect by other drugs of the same class.
i.e.) Dilantin may cause the gums to swell. 

Medical Cannabis Treatment for Epilepsy

  • Cannabidiol Displays Antipileptiform and Antiseizure Properties In Vitro and In Vivi (2010)
    Research aimed to explore the further implications of CBD for its anticonvulsant properties using both animals and isolated tissue experimentation. It was found that CBD and its effects with CB1 receptors showed the potential to inhibit epileptiform activity within isolated tissue samples, and reduce seizure severity in living animals. Published in the US National Library of Medicine.
  • Cannabidivarin is anticonvulsant in mouse and rats (2012)
    Research set out to test the effect of the cannabinoid CBDV on convulsions, such as those caused by epilepsy. It was found that the application of such a cannabinoid was effective at preventing convulsions and appeared to have not side effects on normal functioning. Published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.
  • Marijuana, endocannabinoids, and epilepsy: potential and challenges for improved therapeutic intervention (2013)
    This research is a meta-study that outlines how the outcomes of many other studies appear to indicate that cannabinoids, and marijuana, are potentially beneficial to those suffering from neurological disorders, such as epilepsy. Published in the US National Library of Medicine.

Cannabis for the Treatment of Epilepsy, Seizures and More
By Dr Mercola

Excerpt from article:

US Government Holds Patent on Cannabis as a Neuroprotectant

Interestingly, the US government, through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), holds a patent on cannabis, specifically on cannabidiol (CBD) as a neuroprotectant and an antioxidant. This patent was filed over a decade ago, and was approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2003. …………> Read More about Medical Cannabis as a Treatment for Epilepsy

Statistics: Population diagnosed with Epilepsy in Australia

  • An estimated 2.4 million new cases occur each year globally1
  • It is estimated that over 250,000 Australians are living with epilepsy2. Approx 3% to 3.5% of Australians will experience epilepsy at some point in their lives.
  • It is estimated that nearly 800,000 people in Australia will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some stage in life2
  • Up to 15% of people referred to an epilepsy specialist centre do not actually have epilepsy and have been previously misdiagnosed
  • A small percentage of people may be eligible for surgery. Approximately 70% of people who have epilepsy surgery become seizure free
  • Around the world an estimated 50 million people have epilpesy at any given time1
1 World Health Organisation, http://www.who.int/mental_health/neurology/epilepsy/en/
2 Australian Bureau of Statistics
3 WHO, ILE, ILEA Global Campaign against Epilepsy, 2003; WHO Fact Sheet No. 165, 2001
Epilepsy and the endocannabinoid system - how it treats.This image is a simplification for website aesthetics only. For more information please refer to the clinical studies referenced below.

What is Epilepsy?

A neurological disorder that is marked by sudden episodes of recurrent sensory disturbances.

Causes of Epilepsy

There are many causes of epilepsy. They tend to vary based on the nature of the seizures as well as the age of onset. In 50% of cases, the cause is not known.

Presently we know that structural abnormalities in the developing brain, infections like meningitis or encephalitis, or minimal to no oxygen to the brain during birth or after a stroke, can cause epilepsy. Brain injuries, particularly those that result in scar tissue, is also known to make one more susceptible to developing epilepsy. Oftentimes there is a considerable lapse in time between the brain injury and the onset of seizures.  Epilepsy can also occur as a result from a tumour., though this is not a common cause in children.  In the aged population., over 65s may develop epilepsy from degenerative conditions like that of Alzheimer’s disease.

In a great number of cases involving very young children, genetics has been indicated to play an important role. Genetics however can be a factor in developing epilepsy at any age. Some people are simply more prone to developing seizures than others. When there is a history of seizures in the family, there is a greater risk for an individual to develop epilepsy.

Symptoms of Epilepsy

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sensory disturbance
  • Convulsions, associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain

Clinical Studies / Reference:

Review references and clinical studies pertaining to the use of medical cannabis in treating Epilepsy.

Clinical Trial – Studies the genes of Dravet Syndrome who have been treated with a strain of medical cannabis called “Charlotte’s Web”

In what is believed to be the first of its kind, researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus are about to study the genes of those suffering with one particular kind of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. They will study these patients whom have been treated with a strain of medical cannabis known as Charlotte’s Web. In this research they will decipher whether specific genetic components can determine why some epilepsy patients achieve positive results from ingesting Charlotte’s Web,  and others do not.

Grown in Colorado by five brothers, a non-profit organisation called Realm of Caring will support this endeavour. Charlotte’s web is a medicinal cannabis plant; that is low in THC, the cannabinoid known to produce marijuana’s psychoactive effects. In contrast, it is very high in CBD; the cannabinoid believed to reduce seizures in those suffering from certain forms of epilepsy. It is administered to patients with epilepsy, including some children, and it comes in the form of oil. The plant is named after Charlotte Fiji. This young girl was the first epilepsy patient that was successfully treated with this particular strain.

While anecdotal evidence suggests that Charlotte’s Web can be highly effective in treating these conditions, scientific investigation of the cannabinoid product has been slowed down significantly by federal drug laws which set boundaries on the research. Edward Maa, who is the principal investigator of Charlotte’s Web Study, explains that a new trial would be a first step toward building a body of research and evidence regarding how and why medical cannabis results in an efficient treatment for epilepsy.  “This is the first attempt to get the information people are interested in that is observational in nature,” says Maa, the assistant professor at the CU School of Medicine and Chief of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Programs at Denver Health.

The new study will recruit patients suffering from epilepsy who have already taken Charlotte’s Web. The patients in the study will be divided into two groups—those who have observed seizure activity reduced by at least 50 percent using  Charlotte’s Web and those who have had minimal to no results from taking the cannabis oil. Genetic analysis of the patients within both groups will then hopefully identify what genetic components cause a patient to be responsive to the medical cannabis treatment.

Researchers on the CU Anschutz team will collect and review the data including the dosages used by patients in the study, in hopes that further research will be fulfilled down the line. With further data that we can collect in a large sample, the closer we will be to discovering truth explains Maa. This study could result in genetic screening in children with Dravet Syndrome before taking Charlotte’s Web. This would indicate to parents ahead of time whether their children would benefit in this particular epilepsy treatment. It’s possible to conduct the study in Colorado because Charlotte’s Web is grown there legally. It is also home to many families who have relocated to the state specifically in the access for this medicinal strain of cannabis.

Recruiting for the new study has already begun and will be collected until February 2016.

Register to prequalify for medicinal cannabis treatment for Epilepsy and learn more about the science behind cannabinoid therapy – Obligation Free.