JAMA Netw Open. 2021 Sep 1;4(9):e2123930. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.23930.
IMPORTANCE: Developmental and epileptic encephalopathies (DEEs) are the most severe group of drug-resistant epilepsies. Alternatives to oral therapies are urgently needed to reduce seizures and improve developmental outcomes and comorbidities in this medically complex population.
OBJECTIVE: To assess the safety and tolerability of cannabidiol (CBD) transdermal gel in children with DEEs and to evaluate seizure frequency, sleep, and quality of life.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This nonrandomized controlled trial was conducted in 2 centers in Australia and New Zealand from April 2018 to July 2019. Children and adolescents aged 3 to 18 years with DEEs who were receiving a stable regimen of 1 to 4 antiseizure medications were eligible for this study. After 1-month baseline and titration periods, patients entered a 5.5-month flexible-dosing maintenance period for a total of 6.5 months of treatment. Data were analyzed throughout the 6.5-month treatment period.
INTERVENTIONS: Twice-daily applications of CBD transdermal gel at doses of 125 to 500 mg for 6.5 months.
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Safety and tolerability assessments included adverse events (AEs) and examination of skin. The outcome for seizures was the median percentage change from baseline in monthly (28-day) seizure frequency of focal impaired awareness seizures (FIAS) and tonic-clonic seizures (TCS) over 6.5 months.
RESULTS: Of 48 patients (mean [SD] age, 10.5 [3.8] years; 26 [54%] boys), 29 (60%) had at least 1 treatment-related AE over 6.5 months; 44 of 46 treatment-related AEs (96%) were mild or moderate. Treatment-related AEs that occurred in at least 5% of patients were application-site dryness, application-site pain, and somnolence (each reported by 4 patients [8%]). The only treatment-related gastrointestinal AE was diarrhea, reported in a single patient. CBD treatment was associated with reductions in FIAS and TCS frequency. Analysis of the 33 patients with FIAS and TCS showed a median (interquartile range) monthly reduction in seizures of 58% (-5.3% to 81.8%) at 5 months and 43.5% (-23.8% to 57.5%) over the entire 6.5-month study period. Parents and caregivers noted improvements in social or interpersonal engagement and irritability (33 of 43 [77%] participants); alertness, energy, and sleep (23 of 43 [53%]); and cognition or concentration (20 of 43 [47%]).
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this study, CBD transdermal gel was safe, well tolerated, and was associated with reductions in FIAS and TCS frequency and disease burden.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: ACTRN12618000516280.