Cannabis-based products for pediatric epilepsy: An updated systematic review

Seizure. 2020 Feb;75:18-22. doi: 10.1016/j.seizure.2019.12.006. Epub 2019 Dec 9.


Purpose: To provide an up-to-date summary of the benefits and harms of cannabis-based products for epilepsy in children.

Methods: We updated our earlier systematic review, by searching for studies published up to May 2019. We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and non-randomized studies (NRS) involving cannabis-based products administered to children with epilepsy. Outcomes were seizure freedom, seizure frequency, quality of life, sleep, status epilepticus, death, gastrointestinal adverse events, and emergency room visits.

Results: Thirty-five studies, including four RCTs, have assessed the benefits and harms of cannabis-based products in pediatric epilepsy (12 since April 2018). All involved cannabis-based products as adjunctive treatment, and most involved cannabidiol. In the RCTs, there was no statistically significant difference between cannabidiol and placebo for seizure freedom (relative risk 6.77, 95 % confidence interval [CI] 0.36-128.38), quality of life (mean difference [MD] 0.6, 95 %CI -2.6 to 3.9), or sleep disruption (MD -0.3, 95 %CI -0.8 to 0.2). Data from both RCTs and NRS suggest that cannabidiol reduces seizure frequency and increases treatment response; however, there is an increased risk of gastrointestinal adverse events.

Conclusion: Newly available evidence supports earlier findings that cannabidiol probably reduces the frequency of seizures among children with drug-resistant epilepsy.

Prospero: CRD42018084755.

Keywords: Cannabidiol; Efficacy; Living systematic review; Paediatric drug-resistant epilepsy; Safety; Seizure.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cannabidiol / adverse effects
  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / adverse effects
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / pharmacology*
  • Child
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Medical Marijuana / adverse effects
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use*


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Medical Marijuana
  • Cannabidiol