By Ariana Eunjung Cha January 24 

A new class of epilepsy medications based on an ingredient derived from marijuana could be available as soon as the second half of 2018 in the United States, pending Food and Drug Administration approval.

Officials from GW Pharmaceuticals, the company that developed the drug, on Wednesday announced promising results from a study on 171 patients randomized into treatment and placebo groups. Members of the group, ages 2 to 55, have a condition called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and were suffering from seizures that were not being controlled by existing drugs. On average they had tried and discontinued six anti-seizure treatments and were experiencing 74 “drop” seizures per month. Drop seizures involve the entire body, trunk or head and often result in a fall or other type of injury.

The results, published in the Lancet, show that over a 14-week treatment period, 44 percent of patients taking the drug, called Epidiolex, saw a significant reduction in seizures, compared with 22 percent of the placebo group. Moreover, more of the patients who got the drug experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction in drop seizures.

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