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Study: Compound in pot helps kids with epilepsy

A landmark clinical trial has shown that a compound in marijuana can ease life-threatening seizures in children with a rare and devastating form of epilepsy.

Cannabidiol -- a non-intoxicating chemical -- reduced seizure frequency by 39 percent in patients with Dravet Syndrome, researchers report.

This is the first randomized, controlled trial to show that cannabidiol (CBD) can help control seizures in some people with epilepsy, said study author Dr. Orrin Devinsky. He is director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

"It's a big landmark in the scientific study of cannabis, and it's a major landmark in epilepsy care," Devinsky said. "After four millennia of using cannabis to treat epilepsy, we now have for the first time scientifically rigorously obtained data that this specific compound works in this specific form of epilepsy."

Brandy Fureman, vice president of research and new therapies for the Epilepsy Foundation, agreed that the new trial provides "gold standard" evidence of cannabidiol's effectiveness.

"We now have strong evidence that CBD [cannabidiol] can be helpful for some people with Dravet Syndrome," Fureman said. "This trial provides important information for doctors and families who are trying to decide if CBD should be tried in their child's particular case, how it can be administered safely, and what side effects to watch out for."

The clinical trial relied on a liquid formulation of cannabidiol called Epidiolex, which was developed by British company GW Pharmaceuticals.

Epidiolex has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. GW Pharmaceuticals -- which paid for the clinical trial -- expects to file for FDA approval of the drug this year.

In the trial, Devinsky and his colleagues recruited 120 children and teenagers with Dravet Syndrome, which generally starts causing severe seizures within the first year of life. The seizures often are prolonged and repetitive; 1 in 5 children with Dravet Syndrome do not live to see age 20, Devinsky said.

The patients, ranging in age from 2 to 18, were randomly assigned to receive every day either 20 milligrams of liquid Epidiolex or a placebo, on top of their usual medication. The study took place across 23 sites in the United States and Europe, and lasted 14 weeks.

Children receiving Epidiolex experienced fewer seizures, going from an average of 12 convulsive seizures a month before the study to about six seizures a month. Three patients' seizures stopped entirely.

At the same time, children in the placebo group only had a slight reduction in seizures, from about 15 to 14 seizures a month.

More than 9 out of 10 children did experience side effects from treatment with Epidiolex, the researchers found. The most common side effects were vomiting, fatigue and fever.

Although these symptoms generally were mild to moderate, eight children in the Epidiolex group withdrew from the trial due to side effects, compared to one patient in the placebo group.

The study appears in the May 25 issue of the  New England Journal of Medicine .


Differences seen in how dads treat sons, daughters

The question of whether parents treat sons and daughters differently and how that may or may not affect the children later in life has been the subject of a number of scientific studies — and endless family debates.

New research now adds to the conversation, not only shedding light on certain behavioral differences fathers show toward sons and daughters but also revealing clues to what's happening in their brains.

The study, published in the American Psychological Association's journal  Behavioral Neuroscience , focused specifically on fathers' interactions with their toddlers.

"In most fields of research there's so much more research on men than on women, but this is one of the rare situations in which there's a lot more research on moms than on dads ," lead researcher Jennifer Mascaro, PhD, an assistant professor in Family and Preventative Medicine at the Emory School of Medicine, told CBS News.

The findings showed that fathers of little girls tended to be more responsive to their daughters' needs than fathers with toddler sons, and they spoke more openly to daughters about emotions, including sadness.

Fathers of little boys, on the other hand, engaged in more rough-and-tumble play and used more achievement-related language, including words like "proud," "win," and "top."

Dads with daughters also used more language referencing the child's body, including "belly," "foot," and "tummy."

For the study, Mascaro and her team analyzed data on 52 fathers of toddlers (30 girls, 22 boys) in the Atlanta area who wore a small handheld computer device onto their belts for two days. Every nine minutes, the device randomly turned on for 50 seconds and recorded sound.

"People act shockingly normal when they are wearing it," Mascaro noted in a press release on the findings. "They kind of forget they are wearing it or they say to themselves, what are the odds it's on right now."

The dads were also told to charge the device in their child's bedroom at night so any nighttime interactions with their kids could be recorded.

In addition, fathers underwent MRI brain scans while viewing photos of their child with happy, sad or neutral facial expressions. Participants with daughters had greater responses to their daughters' happy facial expressions in areas of the brain important for visual processing, reward, emotion regulation, and face processing than fathers of sons, the researchers found.

Conversely, the brains of dads with boys responded more robustly to their sons' neutral facial expressions.

While the authors emphasize that no definitive long-term conclusions could be made from the research, the findings mirror previous studies.

"A huge caveat is that we did not longitudinally study the toddlers whose dads were in the study so we can't tie any of these differences to outcomes," Mascaro said, "but there is a lot of research indicating that the quality and quantity of language that people use with children is important for cognitive outcomes ."

For example, when taken together she says both the behavioral and brain imaging findings suggest that parents tend to respond


Mitch McConnell says he's unsure how to get a majority to pass GOP health bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he doesn't know how Senate Republicans will secure a majority of votes to pass legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.


Sextuplets born to couple trying to conceive for 17 years



CBO: 23 million more without health insurance over next decade under House-passed bill

Last Updated May 24, 2017 5:41 PM EDT

Twenty-three million more people would be left without health insurance over the next decade under the House-passed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare , according to a cost estimate released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Wednesday.

This estimate of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) projects that 1 million fewer people would lose their health insurance over that period than had been previously estimated when the CBO scored earlier versions of the bill. Two separate cost estimates in March projected that 24 million people would be left without insurance by 2026 under the versions of the measure considered at the time.

The House-passed legislation would also reduce federal deficits over the next 10 years by $119 billion, CBO said Wednesday, which is less than the $150 billion CBO projected in a score of an earlier version of the bill. There were reports last week that the House might have to vote again on a health care bill if the CBO projection found that the bill wouldn't save at least $2 billion.

The version of the bill passed by the House allows states to apply for waivers from regulations imposed by Obamacare if they can prove that doing so will reduce average premiums, increase enrollment, stabilize the health insurance coverage market or increase the choice of health plans in the state. According to the proposed amendment, states granted a waiver would be allowed to set up high-risk pools or participate in a new federal invisible risk-sharing program to help states reimburse the cost for insurers for covering these consumers. The American Healthcare Act would give states $100 billion over the next decade to help with high-risk pools 

CBO also projects that the House-passed measure would result in an increase in single policyholder premiums before 2020, by an average of about 20 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019. The report, however, says that starting in 2020, "average premiums would depend in part on any waivers granted to states and on how those waivers were implemented and in part on what share of the funding available from the Patient and State Stability Fund was applied to premium reduction." It also says that for states that don't obtain waivers, average premiums would be "about 4 percent lower in 2026 than under current law." The score from March projected premiums would go down 10 percent, on average, over the next decade.

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, applauded the score. 

"This CBO report again confirms that the American Health Care Act achieves our mission: lowering premiums and lowering the deficit. It is another positive step toward keeping our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare," he said in a statement.


House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., right, takes his notes as he and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., walk away following a news conference on the American Health Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 7, 2017.

Susan Walsh / AP


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