Queensland researchers study medicinal cannabis benefits on anxiety in Fragile X patients
Queensland researchers study medicinal cannabis benefits on anxiety in Fragile X patients Mike Knott BUN270319CAN12

Children in new medical cannabis trial

QUEENSLAND researchers hope a medicinal cannabis gel trial for children with Fragile X syndrome will help relieve anxiety.

Fragile X syndrome is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability.

The international trial will include more than 200 children with Fragile X. Half the children will be treated with the medicinal cannabis gel morning and night, while the remainder will receive a placebo.

Fragile X is caused by a defect in the FMR1 gene, affecting boys more severely than girls.

Queensland Children's Hospital paediatrician Honey Heussler said that, apart from intellectual disability, people with the condition could also have behavioural problems and social anxiety.

The gel being used for the trial contains cannabidiol (CBD), a compound in the cannabis plant, but it contains no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for making people high.

Queensland Children’s Hospital paediatrician Honey Heussler with Emily O’Donnell, 6, who has Fragile X syndrome.
Queensland Children’s Hospital paediatrician Honey Heussler with Emily O’Donnell, 6, who has Fragile X syndrome.

She said a preliminary Australian study of 20 children with Fragile X, who were treated with the medicinal cannabis gel, showed promise as a treatment for their social anxiety.

That study showed the gel was safe with no serious adverse side effects reported.

But Associate Professor Heussler said a much larger trial was needed to prove whether the benefits seen in the earlier research were "a true effect".

"It's important not to build people's expectations too much," she said. "We're approaching this in a scientific manner."

If the medicinal cannabis does ease social anxiety for children with Fragile X, it would greatly improve their quality of life, and that of their families.

"Social anxiety is a huge issue," Prof Heussler said. "Some kids struggle with getting into lifts or going to strange places and meeting new people.

"They often just want to go home."

Queensland studies into different formulations of medicinal cannabis are also being conducted on patients with Tourette syndrome and brain cancer.

To take part in the Fragile X trial, phone 3069 7709 or email CHQ_RD@health.qld.gov.au.