Indoor cannabis plants located in a commercial grow in Washington.

Rory Savatgy

A clinical trial using cannabis to treat children with severe epilepsy is set to begin at Toronto’s Children’s Hospital next year, according to a CBC report. The study will enroll 20 patients aged one to 18 diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that starts in infancy.

The trial, a first in Canada, will test an oral compound that contains both THC and CBD. Research and anecdotal reports have purported that medical cannabis has anticonvulsant properties and epilepsy conditions are approved under every medical cannabis program in the U.S. However — according to Dr. Blathnaid McCoy, a pediatric neurologist who will lead the trials — while research has shown CBD products to be effective in reducing seizures there has not been a rigorous study examining the combination of CBD and THC.

“It varies massively, but [children with] Dravet syndrome often have multiple seizures every day and they can have quite prolonged seizures,” McCoy said in the report. “Certainly when the epilepsy is difficult to control and very treatment-resistant from early on, they can have catastrophic outcomes in terms of their development.”

The clinical products will be supplied by Tilray, a British Columbia-based medical cannabis producer. Catherine Jacobson, Tilray director of clinical research, said the need to develop new medications for children suffering from the “devastating” disease is “very high.”

More than 40 anticonvulsant medications are approved for use in Canada, but 30 percent of patients with severe epilepsy are unable to get relief from any of those conventional drugs.

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