Epidiolex is often touted as the one and only prescription cannabidiol approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when searching for information on our favorite CBD brands and products.
It’s heeded by some as a warning and heralded by others as a progression- but what actually is Epidiolex?
To many, it’s simply known as an anti-seizure medication. To its users, Epidiolex is a bit more complex than that.
Epidiolex Cannabidiol: An Anti-seizure Medication
Epidiolex or Epidiolex cannabidiol, is an oral anti-seizure medication that, when prescribed, is taken twice daily for seizures related to Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), Dravet syndrome, or tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) in patients who are two years of age or older.
Developed in the Greenwich Pharmaceuticals cannabinoid research program, Epidiolex is the first plant-based CBD pharmaceutical approved as a medication by the FDA and was officially accepted in 2018.
Though Epidiolex is cannabinoid-derived, it does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical compound associated with marijuana that produces a high.
This means that Epidiolex will not produce, and users will not experience the euphoric or psychedelic effects associated with weed.
Research has shown that Epidiolex reduced the frequency of seizures in TSC patients by half over 16 weeks of use and resulted in approximately 40 percent fewer seizures for patients with LGS and Dravet syndrome.
Epidiolex is made with a sesame oil base, strawberry flavoring, and cannabidiol, among other ingredients, and is often a clear or yellow-colored liquid.
Much like CBD oil, Epidiolex is taken by applying the liquid to the mouth.
When patients first start taking Epidiolex that has been prescribed to them by their doctor, they may begin with a lower dosage that is adjusted over time in response to individual drug use evaluations and body weight.
What Seizure Conditions Can Epidiolex Treat?
Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, named after the two neurologists who discovered and studied it, is a severe epileptic disorder characterized by five different types of seizures.
- Tonic seizures cause the body to stiffen, breathing changes, pupil dilation, and the eyes to roll upward.
- Atypical absence seizures are a type of seizure that induces staring spells that usually last between 5 and 30 seconds. These seizures are sometimes difficult to notice, as the person having an atypical seizure may look like they are just staring straight ahead, continue to blink, or even continue to produce slight movement in their hands. Other times, atypical seizures will cause a person to stumble or fall.
- Atonic seizures or drop attacks, as they are also known, cause sudden loss of muscle tone and cause a patient’s head or body to go limp, leading to the dropping of objects or falls. These seizures typically last for about 15 seconds.
- Myoclonic seizures produce muscle jerks and twitches and are present for about two seconds.
- Tonic-clonic seizures, often called convulsions, are the more commonly known seizures that cause a loss of consciousness and intense jerking movements and occur for 1-3 minutes, though more severe ones can last for longer.
LGS is known to develop during childhood and commonly affects children between ages 3 and 5, but can also progress into adolescence and adulthood.
Dravet syndrome also begins early in life and is a rare type of epilepsy that manifests in infancy, often due to SCN1A gene mutations.
Also called Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy, this seizure condition can cause developmental impairments, including neurological damage, in otherwise healthy babies.
Symptoms of Dravet syndrome include seizures, imbalance, speech deficits, growth, nutrition, and sleeping problems, and dysautonomia, to name a few.
In 10 to 20 percent of patients, Dravet syndrome can cause premature death.
Dravet syndrome is considered intractable or difficult to control.
Epidiolex has provided significant advancement for controlling Dravet syndrome, reducing Dravet syndrome-based monthly convulsion seizures by 39 percent in 14 weeks compared to placebo groups.
Tuberous Sclerosis Complex
Tuberous sclerosis complex is a tumor-producing genetic disorder that can cause non-cancerous tumor growth in various organs, including the brain, heart, and lungs.
Developed via inheritance or genetic mutation, TSC affects approximately 1 million people globally.
Common TSC effects include seizures, cognitive impairment, and autism – a result of the impacts on the central nervous system.
Currently, there is not a known cure for TSC, but it can be monitored. Tumor removal and seizure reduction can help alleviate some of the long-term symptoms.
This includes the use of anti-seizure medications, like Epidolex.
Does Epidiolex Produce Side Effects?
Every medication has the potential to affect different bodies differently. Expidiolex is no exception.
Side effects of Epidiolex can include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, sickness, tiredness, jaundice, weight loss, itching, dark urine, diarrhea, pain or discomfort in the right upper stomach, increased liver enzymes, and rash.
Exhaustion and feeling tired were some of the more common side effects and can improve over time.
During clinical studies, the percentage of patients who chose to stop taking 10 milligrams per kilogram of Epidiolex a day due to side effects when using it for LGS or Dravet syndrome was 3 percent.
For those taking 20 mg/kg a day, 12 percent discontinued the medication due to side effects.
In the TSC study, for participants who took 25 mg/kg/day, the discontinuation rate due to side effects was 11 percent.
Additionally, anti-epileptic drugs are also known to cause suicidal thoughts or actions in about 1 out of every 500 people.
Some side effects may occur when Epidiolex is not taken with food, as is suggested.
Patients using Epidiolex should be sure to consult a doctor about taking their medication with food or before using alcohol or other drugs.
Why Does CBD Help Seizures?
At this point, we don’t fully understand why or how CBD helps prevent and reduce seizures – we just know it does.
Many scientists hypothesize that CBD’s relation with seizures has to do with its effects on our endocannabinoid system, central nervous system, and brain.
Your body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a biological system responsible for maintaining homeostatic functions like immunity, appetite, sleep, stress, or pain.
The ECS also maintains balance in our central nervous system, which regulates our brain and spine.
The ECS provides a circuit on which endocannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoid molecules communicate.
When these receptors and endocannabinoids come together, they can alter bodily responses, translating communication as they emit specific signals.
CBD also binds to our receptors. This communication allows CBD to work in our bodies and change the way our body reacts to certain stimulations such as stress or pain.
As the ECS works to facilitate harmony throughout our bodies and CBD binds to receptors present in our heart, brain, lungs, and nerves, it is thought to alter neuron excitability or rapid membrane charges produced in response to stimuli.
While little has been uncovered about CBD’s effects on our bodies, the federal stamp of approval given to Epidiolex has opened doors for further CBD medicinal research, exploration, and impact.
For those suffering from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Tuberous sclerosis complex, or Dravet syndrome-driven seizures, Epidiolex cannabidiol might provide remedy and relief.
Potential patients should talk with a medical professional about Epidiolex and seizures to find out more about prescriptions, doses, and side effects.
Epidiolex has provided seizure patients with relief and improved quality of life in otherwise fixed conditions – the first FDA-approved CBD medication has changed the future of CBD pharmaceuticals.