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article imageMedical pot activists fear new Epilepsy drug will undercut them

By Karen Graham     Apr 17, 2016 in Health
The manufacturer of a new drug made from marijuana, and used to treat a rare form of epilepsy, is going to seek approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But medical marijuana activists are fearful FDA approval will hurt them politically.
G W Pharmaceuticals is the maker of Epidiolex, an almost pure extract of cannabidiol, or CBD. The drug contains very little tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, that gives marijuana users a high.
The CBD in medical pot products are what is fueling the current rage today, and activists are fearful that if the FDA does approve Epidiolex for use, the move will adversely affect the political momentum of the medical marijuana movement. The drug company says that if Epidiolex is approved, it will be the first drug in the U.S. containing CBD to get approval.
The Associated Press reports that Dr. Anup Patel, a pediatric neurologist who oversees Epidiolex clinical trials at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, points out the drug contains the optimal known amount of CBD for treating seizures. He also cited a study that found children can be hurt by using the whole plant.
Patel went on to say that the thing that upsets him the most is that children are being used to push for medical marijuana legalization in the U.S., even though Ohio knocked legalization down when it was on the ballot last year. "People are mixing terms, mixing ideas," the Herald Online quoted him as saying. "I'm not sure if that's just because of confusion, lack of knowledge or on purpose."
Two warring camps on the issue of medical marijuana
One camp or side of the issue is the opinion held by traditional medical marijuana users. They say that an individual knows what is best for them, regardless of if they smoke, vape or use flowered products or the oil. As activists, they want to protect their ability to do just that.
This is why they are afraid of the big pharmaceutical companies getting involved in medical marijuana because they would lose the right to dose themselves. But they are ignoring the people, such as children and the elderly, that really can benefit from the extracts of marijuana, who may not know how or be able to make the concentrations themselves.
The other camp in this issue wants to see more scientific validity and real studies done on the optimal concentrations needed in dosing. They say this will give reliability to the products. They also point out the cost of medical marijuana products, which cost from about $100 to more than $1,000 per month. These costs are not covered by most medical insurance policies, but a drug like Epidiolex, which would cost from $2,500 to $5,000 a month, could be covered by most insurance policies.
Epidiolex has proven to be an effective treatment for one rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome and is just one in a line of marijuana-based medications on the market. G W Pharmaceuticals also manufactures Sativex, a drug that treats multiple sclerosis spasticity. Sativex contains a specific extract of Cannabis, nabiximols, that was approved as a botanical drug in the United Kingdom in 2010 as a mouth spray.
The bottom line for this issue is that activists fear Epidiolex approval will mark the beginning of Big Pharma's takeover of the marijuana plant, taking away a patient's ability to treat themselves as they see fit.
More about Epilepsy drug, Marijuana, medical pot movement, Epidiolex
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