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The PELICAN study

The PELICAN STUDY for children with epilepsy

The PELICAN (Paediatric Epilepsy Lambert Initiative Cannabinoid ANalysis) study is interviewing parents of children with epilepsy about their views of, and experience with, medicinal cannabis. 

Project overview

The PELICAN (Paediatric Epilepsy Lambert Initiative Cannabinoid ANalysis) study is an observational non-intervention study that aims to take an in-depth look at the experiences of parents using cannabis oils and tinctures to treat their child with epilepsy.

The study will involve interviews with parents and the collection and chemical analysis of cannabis-based extracts already being used in the community, in order to link cannabinoid content to its perceived therapeutic effects. Parents will have the option to receive individual feedback on the cannabinoid content of their sample.

The study will include interviews with families who have tried and stopped using medicinal cannabis and analyse cannabis extracts that have not been effective. It will also involve interviews with families who have never used cannabis-derived treatments. Interviews will touch on issues such as the family’s experiences with and attitudes towards medicinal cannabis use for treatment of childhood epilepsy. Interviews are strictly confidential and all personal information is de-identified.

Results published in Scientific Reports - July 2018

Overall conclusions:

This is the first study of its kind to document the chemical composition of cannabis extracts being used to treat epilepsy in the Australian community. At the time of the study, nearly all families were accessing (illicit) cannabis extracts of unknown strength, composition and quality for their child’s epilepsy, with most reporting that their child’s seizure frequency had reduced since starting the cannabis extract.

Our analyses identified large variation in the cannabinoid content of cannabis products being used in the community, with most cannabis products containing low doses of CBD, and THC present in nearly every sample (also in low doses). The study was not designed in a such way to provide any definitive conclusions on how effective these cannabis extracts are for childhood epilepsy. However, the study does throw a spotlight on the world of families who are resorting to the use of illicit cannabis products to treat their child’s epilepsy when conventional treatments have failed. These findings underline the large unmet clinical need for better management options for childhood epilepsy.

These findings provide researchers, policy makers and the public greater insight into the types and concentration of cannabinoids present in illicit cannabis extracts in the Australian community, as well as the experiences of the families who are using cannabis products to treat their child’s epilepsy. This work warrants further investigation into the added value of specific cannabinoids (other than CBD), alone and in combination with other cannabinoids and standard antiepileptic drugs, in treatment-resistant epilepsy – a high-priority task for researchers at the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics.

Initial NSW arm commenced – August 2016
Results published in Scientific Reports - July 2018

Anastasia Suraev
Ruth Blackburn
Professor Iain McGregor
Professor Nick Lintzeris
Associate Professor Jonathon Arnold

Dr Richard Kevin

Clinical, community outreach, survey and analytical chemistry

The Lambert Initiative
Queensland Health


Cannabis chemical THC could be missing 'piece to the puzzle' in treating kids with epilepsy appeared in ABC News on 6 July 2018

Content of illicit cannabis to treat kids with epilepsy revealed appeared in University of Sydney News on 6 July 2018

Epileptic children may be high on illegal cannabis Appeared in The Australian on 5 July 2018

Parents unknowingly give THC-tinged cannabis to children with epilepsy appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald on 5 July 2018

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