The AKCCHF’s CBD study could be the first published, large-scale study to examine the effects of CBD on seizure activity in dogs. “This clinical trial is important for several reasons,” Dr. McGrath shared. “Generally speaking, the science supporting CBD use in veterinary medicine is lacking. There is abundant anecdotal evidence, but very few, if any, well-executed research studies.
The AKC Canine Health Foundation (AKCCHF) recently announced a major clinical trial to study CBD as a treatment for drug-resistant epilepsy in dogs. We talked with Dr. Diane Brown, the chief executive officer of the AKC Canine Health Foundation, and Dr. Stephanie McGrath, veterinary neurologist at Colorado State University and the principal investigator for the AKCCHF research project, to find out more.
Why Studies on CBD & Dog Seizures Matter
She explained, “The study is testing CBD on dogs with epilepsy in a controlled research setting. The dogs enrolled in the study are randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or the CBD oil for 12 weeks and then, after a 4-week washout period, receive the opposite drug for an additional 12 weeks. The researchers and the owners are blinded as to which drug is given in each half of the study.”
“AKC Canine Health Foundation launched our most recent epilepsy research initiative in 2017 to address the unmet health needs for dogs with epilepsy,” Dr. Brown explained. “Grants awarded by CHF have already resulted in the identification of genes associated with risk factors for epilepsy in dogs, as well as a new treatment for use in the emergency room for canine epileptic patients. When a genetic test becomes available for specific forms of epilepsy, then breeders will use that test to breed away from that mutation.”
Researchers don’t yet understand why some dogs continue to experience seizures despite medication. Preliminary in vitro studies of CBD show anticonvulsant effects, and researchers like Dr. McGrath hope that CBD will offer better control of epilepsy with fewer side effects.
CBD itself does not have abuse potential and does not produce the “high” that is typical of marijuana, so you do not need to worry about your child abusing the drug or becoming addicted to it. However, it is possible that others may misunderstand the effects of the drug, particularly because it is new and because it is derived from the same plant that marijuana is derived from.
A 2017 study published in JAMA found that 26 percent of products purchased online contained less CBD than their labels claimed.
Epidiolex comes in an oral solution (liquid form), and the recommended dose is initiated based on weight.
Cannabidiol (CBD)—a component of the marijuana plant—has gotten a lot of attention for medical use, including the treatment of epilepsy. Epidiolex is the only prescription form of CBD available, and it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June 2018 for the treatment of seizures in two hard-to-treat forms epilepsy—Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome. Epidiolex is approved for adults and children over the age of 2 who have one of these rare disorders.
It is not completely clear why CBD can reduce some types of seizures. It is known to have a range of biochemical effects on nerve cells in the brain, some of which may have an impact on seizures. Medical research on CBD is still in its early stages.
LGS is a developmental disorder that begins in early childhood and is characterized by multiple seizure types, as well as physical and cognitive deficits. The seizures of LGS are difficult to control and are managed with a different medication regimen than that which is used for most epilepsy types.
Some other CBD products contained other compounds from the marijuana plant, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the part that gets you “high.”
NEJM May 2017
Studies in the U.S. of Epidiolex (a plant-based CBD formulation) have been ongoing for a number of years. Data from these studies has helped provide evidence that led to the FDA approval of this product on June 25, 2018.
The Journal of Child Neurology hosted a special report podcast about cannabis on March 6, 2017. In the report, Dr. Alison Christy interviews Dr. Jackie Gofshteyn, a resident in pediatric neurology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, about her article, “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Febrile Infection-Related Epilepsy Syndrome (FIRES) in the Acute and Chronic Phases.” Dr. Christy also speaks with epilepsy.com’s medical cannabis editor, Dr. Anup Patel of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, about his article, “Medical Marijuana in Pediatric Neurological Disorders.” Margo Roemeling, a third year medical student at Oregon Health and Sciences University, shares the learning topic on the history and use of marijuana in the treatment of pediatric neurologic conditions.
Additional Cannabidiol Studies
Hemp is a variety of Cannabis Sativa L. plant historically grown for fibrous materials found in its stalks and seeds. It has been used to make items such as clothing fiber, upholstery, and other household items.
Providers do not need a special license or certificate to prescribe Epidiolex. Epidiolex is the first and only plant-based treatment derived from cannabis for use as a treatment for seizures with FDA approval. Other formulations of medical cannabis have not been approved by the FDA.
Hemp traditionally contains lower concentrations of THC and higher levels of CBD. Cannabinoids extracted from hemp plants, including CBD, have until recently been classified as marijuana and considered Schedule I substances. Per the DEA, Schedule I substances currently have no accepted medical use and have a high potential for abuse. A federal law* enacted in December 2018, however, reclassifies hemp and hemp-derived CBD as an agricultural commodity and exempts it from the list of Schedule I Drugs.
It is important to know that even though marijuana is a plant, it is broken down in a person’s liver like many medicines. People mistakenly believe that marijuana is completely safe because it is a plant or oil from a plant. However, medication interactions can occur.