BACKGROUND: Dravet syndrome (DS) is one of the most severe forms of drug-resistant epilepsy and available interventions fail to control seizures in most patients. Cannabidiol (CBD) is the first in a new class of antiepileptic drugs with a distinctive chemical structure and mechanism of action.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of CBD as adjunctive treatment for seizures in patients with DS using meta-analytical techniques.
METHODS: We searched for randomized, placebo-controlled, single- or double-blinded trials. Main outcomes included ≥ 50% reduction in baseline convulsive seizure frequency and the incidence of treatment withdrawal and adverse events (AEs). Risk ratios (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were estimated through the inverse variance method.
RESULTS: Three trials were included involving 359 participants, 228 for CBD and 131 for placebo groups. In all trials, the active treatment was a plant-derived pharmaceutical formulation of purified CBD oral solution. The pooled RR for 50% response during the treatment was 1.69 (95% CI 1.21-2.36; p = 0.002). Across the trials, treatment was discontinued in 20 (9.0%) and 3 (2.3%) cases in the add-on CBD and placebo groups, respectively; the RR for CBD withdrawal was 3.12 (95% CI 1.07-9.10; p = 0.037). The RR to develop any AE during add-on CBD treatment was 1.06 (95% CI 0.87-1.28; p = 0.561). AEs significantly associated with adjunctive CBD were somnolence, decreased appetite, diarrhea, and increased serum aminotransferases.
CONCLUSIONS: Adjunctive CBD resulted in a greater reduction in convulsive seizure frequency than placebo and a higher rate of AEs in patients with DS presenting with seizures uncontrolled by concomitant antiepileptic therapy.