Michael Privitera, MD, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Epilepsy Center at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, is helping bring innovative treatments to epilepsy patients. As a researcher and physician, Privitera is always on the hunt for new drugs that may help his epilepsy patients.
Privitera recently began researching CBD as a treatment for specific subgroups of epilepsy. Until recently, all accounts that medical marijuana helped epilepsy patients were anecdotal, but Privitera and his team wanted to determine if Epidiolex, a trial drug that’s 100 percent CBD, improved outcomes for epilepsy patients in a rigorous traditional clinical trial.
“It was pretty clear from the studies, and once we started treating people, that it's not a miracle drug,” Privitera said. “But it's clear that it works in some people who failed five, or eight or even 10 drugs before and are still having lots of seizures.”
Privitera is excited to see positive results with no evidence of psychotropic effects. Epidiolex is working through the FDA, and Privitera hopes the drug will be approved by the end of the year.
Since CBD research is still relatively new, Privitera says there’s much more to be done. He wants to continue studying dosages to see what is most effective and to ensure that CBD is treated like any other pharmaceutical drug. This includes understanding potential drug interactions to prevent any side effects and make it as safe as possible for patients. In addition, Privitera wants to continue researching how CBD impacts patients with different subsets of epilepsy. His previous study only looked at two different subgroups, so there are other types that have yet to be tested.
Privitera’s research with CBD may even extend beyond epilepsy. Medical marijuana is currently approved to treat about 20 conditions, but Privitera says there’s really only evidence for two. For example, many have argued that medical marijuana is beneficial for people who suffer from anxiety and depression—which epilepsy patients report more than the general population—but no scientific studies have been completed to confirm this hunch.
Privitera is also looking at other ways to help people with epilepsy. His team recently applied for a grant to complete a study to help patients better predict when they’re likely to have a seizure. In this way and many others, Privitera’s endless dedication to research is improving the lives of current and future patients.
“As a researcher and professor, you consistently must focus on new research, and I think having this focus and then seeing patients with that disorder really helps you treat those people,” said Privitera. “The teaching and the research that we do helps us be outstanding clinicians.”