Researchers at the University of California Davis have determined that a synthetic analog to cannabidiol can be effective for treating seizures in lab rats. Results of the research led by Mark Mascal, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Chemistry in collaboration with the University of Reading, U.K., were published last week by the journal Scientific Reports.
Researchers compared the effectiveness of herbal CBD and a synthetic version of CBD known as 8,9-Dihydrocannabidiol (H2CBD) in treating induced seizures in lab rats. They determined that the two compounds were equally effective in reducing both the frequency and severity of seizures.
Mascal said in a university press release that his lab has developed a process to produce H2CBD easily and inexpensively using commercially available chemicals. The manmade version of the drug has several advantages over its naturally derived counterpart, according to Mascal.
“It’s a much safer drug than CBD, with no abuse potential and doesn’t require the cultivation of hemp,” he said.
Hemp cultivation for CBD takes up land that could be used for other agricultural uses, including the cultivation of other varieties of hemp that can be used to produce fiber, grain, or oilseed. H2CBD can be produced more economically with greater purity than hemp-derived CBD plant extracts. Also, the synthetic analog can’t be chemically altered to produce psychoactive cannabinoids.
“Unlike CBD, there is no way to convert H2CBD to intoxicating THC,” Mascal said.
More Research Planned
Mascal and his colleagues at the UC Davis School of Medicine are continuing their research with animals and hope to begin clinical trials of H2CBD soon. UC Davis has applied for a patent for the anti-seizure applications of the compound and Mascal has founded a company, Syncanica, to further develop the synthetic cannabinoid.
CBD has been shown to be an effective treatment for seizure disorders in humans. It is the active ingredient of Epidiolex, the first medication derived directly from cannabis to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Epidiolex was approved to treat seizures caused by two rare forms of epilepsy, but the high cost of the drug, up to $30,000 per patient per year, leaves the medication out of reach for many patients not covered by insurance.
The approval of Epidiolex led to the rescheduling of the medication under the Controlled Substances Act by the DEA in September 2018, although the agency did not reschedule cannabis or CBD. The medication became available by prescription only in November.