Summary

Objective

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

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Significance

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.

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