A cannabinoid medication that uses a non-psychoactive ingredient of cannabis to treat rare forms of epilepsy has now been recategorized as a schedule 5 drug in the UK, the least restricted classification of drugs. The medication, Epidylolex, proved great success in clinical trials, shown to reduce the children’s seizure frequency by up to 40%, according to labiotech
. This led the drug to be the first cannabinoid treatment to receive approval by the FDA to treat epilepsy. The new classification makes the drug more accessible and could potentially begin a new phase of deregulation of restrictions on cannabinoid products.
The UK has been less progressive in legalizing cannabinoid drugs compared to neighboring EU countries like Germany, Poland, and Portugal. By previously classifying it as a schedule 2 drug, the prescriptions would have to bypass more barriers and necessitate careful paperwork. This loosening of restrictions gives both patients and physicians more flexibility to control their treatment regime.
Pure cannabidiol, the main ingredient in Epidylolex, is legal in the UK because it doesn’t contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient that popularized the drug to be used recreationally. However, Epidyolex was originally categorized as a schedule 1/2 drug because it has trace amounts of THC. But because the psychoactive element is at such a low concentration in Epidyolex, it presents hardly any risk of abuse. They told Labiotech, “This is the first time a cannabis-based medicine has been classified as a schedule 5 medicine.”
The new classification of this cannabinoid drug could pave the way for loosening restrictions for other cannabis-based drugs that could use the allowance of low levels of THC as precedent. As countries around the world relax their rules on medical marijuana laws, the UK has not taken the same steps to liberalize their rules. While other countries have legalized the creation and exportation of some medical products that contain THC, the UK still has a strict ban on the importation of these goods, dampening current access to patients and raising prices. With the changing legal classification, this could enable more avenues of access to the cannabidiol drug and create more headway in cannabis research.