How Medical Marijuana Medication for Epilepsy Could Change Healthcare in America

Marijuana has become the talk of the nation as former taboos slide to a more common acceptance. Even pharmaceutical companies are starting to get in on the rising trend of cannabis over common synthetic treatments. GW Pharmaceuticals is about to get the first ever FDA approved drug for treating epilepsy in children.

The drug itself is a lightning rod for the treatment of epilepsy, but there are some concerns in the marijuana community and stiff opposition from Big Pharma. Take a look at this new drug and how it can help children, the challenges it faces, and how it could change health care in America.

The new drug: Epidiolex

Rosemary Petty, a Publix Supermarket pharmacy technician, counts out a prescription of antibiotic pills

This new drug is on its way to market. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Epidiolex is a cannabis-based drug that is meant to treat severe epilepsy and other serious seizure disorders in children. The drug builds off of the cannabidiol compound found within marijuana, otherwise known as CBD.

This is not the same compound as THC which is the intoxicating chemical that people get high off of. CBD has been found to be successful in treating a whole myriad of health issues, but prohibition has stifled that research and we are only beginning to scratch the surface.

Next: Here is how this drug is different from previous medications for epilepsy? 

CBD is far more effective than current drugs on the market

CBD oil shows incredible promise. | iStock

The current antiepileptic drugs that are available only provide complete control to about half of the people prescribed. Another 20-30% see a drop in the number of seizures and the remainder have no response at all or are  “refractory to treatment.” CBD has been effective in treating people that are refractory to treatment. In fact, the drug was able to reduce seizures by about 40% in patients in clinical trials.

Next: Even the FDA saw this as a “no-brainer” and did this incredibly rare move.

The FDA voted unanimously to approve the drug

Food and Drug administration FDA

The FDA fast-tracked its availability. | Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

In an incredibly rare move, the FDA approved the drug in a 13-0 vote. They even went one step further and fast-tracked its availability to the market. One of the FDA panelists, Dr. John Mendelson, said: “This is clearly a breakthrough drug for an awful disease.” Another panelist echoed his sentiment and said that it was a “no-brainer.”

Next: Not everyone is convinced that this would be a great move.

There is some stiff push-back from ‘big pharma’

doctor hand offering to patient medical marijuana

The pharmaceutical industry is strongly opposed to medical marijuana. | megaflopp/iStock/Getty Images

GW Pharmaceuticals faces a battle on both sides of the industry. Big-pharma has been a staunch opponent of medical marijuana and actively lobbies to keep the drug regulated as a schedule 1 drug: That’s the designation the DEA uses for drugs that provide absolutely no medical benefit. This is obviously a natural stance as cannabis-based drugs can compete in treating almost every ailment out there.

Next: There’s also another surprising opponent to pharmaceutical companies getting involved with cannabis.

The medical marijuana community wants them to stay out

Marijuana activists are wary of pharmaceutical companies getting involved. | Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Conversely, the medical marijuana community is wary of having a pharmaceutical company create cannabis-based drugs for profit. The concern is mainly that they will drive out all the smaller businesses. As medical director, Dr. Gina Berman told The Guardian, “Pharmaceuticals are going to run me down. We have a small business, and we can’t afford to fight Big Pharma.”

Next: This single drug could cause a paradigm shift in how we treat people in America.

Drugs can be used for things other than intended

pill bottles of Viagra

Could Epidiolex be the next Viagra too? | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Did you know that Viagra was originally meant to treat high blood pressure and angina? Well, when they were going through the trials, patients kept reporting a rather odd side effect. Now the drug owns a huge chunk of the sexual dysfunction market.

The same could happen with Epidiolex. This is a drug that is used for treating epilepsy, but if it is deemed necessary by your doctor, it can treat other conditions. The FDA says “once the FDA approves a drug, healthcare providers generally may prescribe the drug for an unapproved use when they judge that it is medically appropriate for their patient.” Given the number of uses that CBD has, this could very well become the primary choice for most treatments.

Next: GW Pharmaceuticals is aware of this loophole and they will change the face of healthcare in America.

Cannabis could treat so many diseases

cannabis oil cbd

CBD oil can be used for almost everything. | OlegMalyshev/Getty Images

The implications of this drug’s approval are far-reaching. That’s simply because this drug can treat almost everything. In some case, just like epilepsy, CBD is more effective than current options. Even GW Pharmaceuticals is aware of this and plan to also use it to treat schizophrenia and other behavioral conditions as well.

Next: Here’s the best part of this drug.

There are virtually no side effects

older at doctor

Say goodbye to side effects. | AlexRaths/iStock/Getty Images

Current prescription drugs come with a myriad of different side effects that require other pills to combat. Often times it’s just way too many drugs to keep up with.

The number one cause of a patient’s noncompliance in taking their medication is fear. The patients generally stop taking their drugs because they are worried about all the side effects that the drug will cause. Luckily with cannabis-based drugs the side effects may include, but are not limited to, the munchies or wanting to take a nap.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!