Cannabidiol – a type of medicinal cannabis – has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to treat some rare forms of childhood epilepsy. This is the focus of a review in the February edition of Australian Prescriber, published in the ‘New Drugs’ section of the journal.
The approval is for the prescribing of cannabidiol as an add-on treatment to other anti-epilepsy medicines for two rare forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Studies have shown that when cannabidiol was added to standard treatment it reduced the number of seizures the children were having each month.
NPS MedicineWise medical adviser and general practitioner Dr Jill Thistlethwaite says cannabidiol and THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol) are the two chemicals most frequently used in medicinal cannabis products.
“Unlike THC, cannabidiol does not cause a ‘high’ and has fewer side effects than THC,” says Dr Thistlethwaite.
“However, due to the way this medicine works in the body, it may interact with other medicines. My advice for medicinal cannabis is the same as for any medicine. When your health professional prescribes a new medicine for you or your child, they know what medicines are already being taken, including over the counter and complementary ones.
“Medicinal cannabis is not considered the first option for treatment of any condition, although there is evidence that it may help some conditions other than epilepsy, including cancer pain, nerve pain, and nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy. In most situations, your doctor must apply for approval to prescribe it, as there are a lot of considerations to take into account,” she says.
An information portal by NPS MedicineWise is helping health professionals and consumers navigate evidence-based information about medicinal cannabis. The information helps explain the regulatory framework and process to access medicinal cannabis for both consumers and health professionals and provides summaries on the latest evidence for medicinal cannabis.
Consumer-friendly content on the website includes answers to frequently asked questions in a downloadable article Medicinal cannabis: What would you like to know?, an infographic resource: Is medicinal cannabis suitable for me?, and an explainer article: Medicinal cannabis, explained.
To read more about cannabidiol for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, read the Australian Prescriber New Drug review.