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Epilepsia. 2018 Dec 4. doi: 10.1111/epi.14608. [Epub ahead of print]

Cannabis-based products for pediatric epilepsy: A systematic review.

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School of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Cardiovascular Research Methods Centre, University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Centre for Health Law, Policy, and Ethics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Independent Information Specialist, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Patient Family Representative, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Paediatrics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Division of Neurology, Hospital for Sick Children Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



To assess the benefits and harms of cannabis-based products for pediatric epilepsy.


We identified in this living systematic review randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and nonrandomized studies (NRSs) involving children with epilepsy treated with cannabis-based products. We searched MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library, and gray literature (April 25, 2018). The primary outcome was seizure freedom; secondary outcomes were seizure frequency (total, ≥50% reduction), quality of life, sleep, status epilepticus, death, gastrointestinal adverse events, and visits to the emergency room. Data were pooled by random-effects meta-analysis. Risk of bias was assessed for each study, and GRADE was used to assess the quality of evidence for each outcome.


Four RCTs and 19 NRSs were included, primarily involving cannabidiol. All RCTs were at low risk of bias, whereas all NRSs were at high risk. Among RCTs, there was no statistically significant difference between cannabidiol and placebo in seizure freedom (relative risk [RR] = 6.77, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.36-128.38; 1 RCT), quality of life (mean difference = 0.6, 95% CI = -2.6 to 3.9; 3 RCTs), sleep disruption (mean difference = -0.3, 95% CI = -0.8 to 0.2; 3 RCTs), or vomiting (RR = 1.00, 95% CI = 0.51-1.96; 4 RCTs). There was a statistically significant reduction in the median frequency of monthly seizures with cannabidiol compared with placebo (-19.8%, 95% CI = -27.0% to -12.6%; 3 RCTs) and an increase in the number of participants with at least a 50% reduction in seizures (RR = 1.76, 95% CI = 1.07-2.88; 1 RCT) and diarrhea (RR = 2.25, 95% CI = 1.38-3.68; 3 RCTs). Death and status epilepticus were infrequently reported.


Evidence from high-quality RCTs suggests that cannabidiol probably reduces seizures among children with drug-resistant epilepsy (moderate certainty). At this time, the evidence base is primarily limited to cannabidiol, and these findings should not be extended to all cannabis-based products.


cannabidiol; cannabis; efficacy; pediatric drug-resistant epilepsy; safety; seizure; systematic review


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