Assessing Liver Effects of Cannabidiol and Valproate Alone and in Combination Using Quantitative Systems Toxicology

Publication: Clin Pharmacol Ther
Software: DILIsym®
Division: DILIsym Services


In clinical trials of cannabidiol (CBD) for the treatment of seizures in patients with Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis complex, elevations in serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) > 3× the upper limit of normal were observed in some patents, but the incidence was much greater in patients who were receiving treatment with valproate (VPA) before starting CBD. To explore potential mechanisms underlying this interaction, we used DILIsym, a quantitative systems toxicology model, to predict ALT elevations in a simulated human population treated with CBD alone, VPA alone, and when CBD dosing was starting during treatment with VPA. We gathered in vitro data assessing the potential for CBD, the two major CBD metabolites, and VPA to cause hepatotoxicity via inhibition of bile acid transporters, mitochondrial dysfunction, and production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Physiologically-based pharmacokinetic models for CBD and VPA were used to predict liver exposure. DILIsym simulations predicted dose-dependent ALT elevations from CBD treatment and this was predominantly driven by ROS production from the parent molecule. DILIsym also predicted VPA treatment to cause ALT elevations which were transient when mitochondrial biogenesis was incorporated into the model. Contrary to the clinical experience, simulation of 2 weeks treatment with VPA prior to introduction of CBD treatment did not predict an increase of the incidence of ALT elevations relative to CBD treatment alone. We conclude that the marked increased incidence of CBD-associated ALT elevations in patients already receiving VPA is unlikely to involve the three major mechanisms of direct hepatotoxicity.

© 2023 The Authors. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics © 2023 American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

By Vinal V. Lakhani, Grant Generaux, Brett A. Howell, Diane M. Longo, Paul B. Watkins