Sick Kids study on cannabis oil and kids with severe epilepsy

A study out of Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto adds weight to research showing how cannabis oil can help kids with drug resistant epilepsy.

For many parents, it is an “I told you” moment after years of fighting for the oil.

It’s a small study but with big results. In some cases, kids who have suffered damaging seizures all their lives are suddenly seizure free.

Liam McKnight is only 10 years old but he's already experienced thousands of seizures in that short time.  Liam was diagnosed as a baby with Dravet Syndrome, a drug-resistant and catastrophic epilepsy that can impact cognition, behavior and motor functions.

“On a bad day,” says Mandy McKnight, Liam’s mother, “he was having 80 seizures a day and they would last from three and half to four and a half minutes on average.”

Five years ago, Liam's parents pushed to try cannabis oil.  The results were dramatic.

“It is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” says McKnight, “We gave him the cannabis oil and within 24 hours, he had no seizures, he was walking, talking, reading books, and even feeding himself.”

Parents with kids suffering from severe epilepsy have been turning to cannabis oil in growing numbers based on anecdotal evidence that it works. 

Now, there is increasing scientific data to back that up.

A study out of Toronto's Sick Kids involving 20 children with Dravet Syndrome showed dramatic results using cannabis oil. 

“The aim of the study was dosing and safe dosing,” explains Dr. Blathnaid McCoy, a paediatric neurologist at Sick Kids.  This is the first Canadian paediatric study of mixed THC/CBD cannabis oil and it shows promise for children with drug-resistant epilepsy.

“We saw a seizure reduction median of 70% percent,” says Dr. McCoy, “two of kids became seizure free.  Among the others, 63% of the kids had a reduction of seizures, which is very comparable to other studies.”

Laura Weightman's 16-year-old daughter was one of the study participants.

“Within first month of the oil, she went from 8 to10 seizures,” says Weightman, “to  4 to 5   so immediately, her seizures were cut in half.”

Any parent of a child with Dravet syndrome knows how devastating this disease can be.  In fact of the 20 kids in the trial, one child died before the trial was even complete of complications from epilepsy.

There were side effects from the cannabis oil, too, sleepiness and change in appetite among them.  For Mandy McKnight, the oil has been life-changing for Liam.  She just wishes it had been available years earlier.

“It could have changed his path,” says McKnight, “Who knows where Liam would be today if we had had that option.”

McKnight doesn't believe cannabis oil is a cure for Dravet syndrome but she does believe it's a viable treatment option and one that she hopes insurance companies will now cover.