Cannabidiol Takes a Big Step Toward Respectability
By Sean Price

Cannabidiol

Under ordinary circumstances, most physicians wouldn't know much about Epidiolex, an anti-seizure medicine that helps with two rare forms of epilepsy.

But Epidiolex is the country's first approved medication to contain cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical component of the Cannabis sativa plants — better known as marijuana. In the past, all marijuana-based substances have been listed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as Schedule I drugs — those that have a high potential for abuse and the potential to create severe psychological or physical dependence.

But all that changed in September when the DEA issued an order listing all drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that contain CBD but no more than 0.1 percent of the chief psychoactive agent in cannabis as Schedule V drugs — those with the least potential for abuse.

So far, Epidiolex is the only medication that fits that description.

The introduction of Epidiolex, which is produced by Greenwich Biosciences, is part of a larger movement toward using CBD in medicine. CBD has been touted as helping with a variety of medical problems, including epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and multiple sclerosis. 

In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed the Compassionate Use Act, which legalized the sale of CBD in Texas just for one narrow medical condition: refractory epilepsy. The Texas Medical Association at the time testified in favor of further study on the use of marijuana products as medicine. The new law allowed three Texas-based dispensaries to start producing CBD oils for sale to epilepsy patients. The first sales took place early in 2018. 

Epidiolex, which the FDA approved in June 2018, is a direct competitor to the oils produced by these dispensaries. Unlike CBD oil, Epidiolex is both FDA-approved and is expected to be covered by most health insurance plans. Nevertheless, Morris Denton, the CEO of Compassionate Cultivation, one of the Texas dispensaries, told Texas Medicine Today earlier this year that the success of Epidiolex is likely to help his business long term. 

"From my perspective, I’m rooting for [Epidiolex],” Mr. Denton said. “Because if the FDA says, sure, CBD has medicinal value, then CBD has medicinal value for not just epilepsy, but a variety of other medical conditions, as well.”

Last Updated On

November 29, 2018

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Sean Price

Reporter

(512) 370-1392

Sean Price is a reporter for Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. He grew up in Fort Worth and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He's worked as an award-winning writer and editor for a variety of national magazine, book, and website publishers in New York and Washington. He's also helped produce Texas-based marketing campaigns designed to promote public health. Sean lives in Austin and enjoys hiking, photography, and spending time with his wife and two sons.

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