A Groundbreaking Marijuana-Derived Treatment is Getting Closer to FDA Approval for Treating Rare Forms of Epilepsy

According to a story from statnews.com, a drug derived from substances originating in the cannabis plant may be nearing approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug is being developed to treat severe types of epilepsy, such as Dravet syndrome, which can inflict dozens of seizures a day and first appears very early in life.
The drug was formulated by GW Pharmaceuticals from the UK. The active substance is cannabidiol (CBD), which is not responsible for the psychoactive effects that get recreational users “high.” Some studies have suggested that along with reducing seizures in epilepsy, CBD may also help treat pain and anxiety, and may also have anti-inflammatory effects. The treatment developed by GW is called Epidiolex, and it would be the first marijuana derived treatment to receive approval in the U.S.

So far, the FDA has announced a positive review of the effects of Epidiolex, and the drug demonstrated its ability to dramatically reduce the number of seizures that patients experienced. Recently, a panel of experts voted on the effectiveness of the treatment and recommended it for approval. While this does not mean that the drug has been officially rubber stamped, it appears that the agency is ready to officially certify the medication for public use; however, the final decision will be made in late June of this year.

If approved, the announcement will fly in the face of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Schedule I classification of marijuana, which defines the plant as a highly risky and dangerous drug alongside other illicit substances such as heroin. In 2016, the FDA recommended that marijuana derived substances be removed from this classification. This would make it easier for more in-depth research to be conducted in order to investigate other possible ways in which the cannabis plant could be of medical utility.
Some patients suffering from severe epilepsy, in desperation, have been forced to turn to acquiring CBD oil, which of questionable legality, in order to find relief from seizures. This is often after trying common anticonvulsants such as clobazam, which are not effective for all patients. An FDA approved CBD treatment would help standardize dosing and safety in so that patients will have a better idea of what to expect.

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