Marijuana-Based Seizure Medication Could Force Change in DEA Policy

The Food and Drug Administration has just done something revolutionary: The agency admitted that marijuana has a medical use.

Well, more specifically, the FDA approved a medication derived from cannabis for the treatment of seizures. Epidiolex contains cannibidiol, or CBD — a compound that many researchers believe may have medical applications. In the specific and limited use of this cannabis product, the FDA agrees.

If you feel like you’ve heard of cannabis-related drugs before, you’re probably thinking of Marinol, which is a synthetic — not naturally derived — medication.

Here’s the problem: Cannabis and all of its products remain a Schedule I drug. In the eyes of the Drug Enforcement Agency, that means that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” As such, doctors aren’t technically allowed to prescribe these drugs for medical treatment.

Activists have long argued that cannabis doesn’t meet either of these criteria. After all, it has medical uses and does not appear to be addictive for most patients — and this FDA ruling is a big moment.

The Washington Post reports that this drug approval will force the DEA to reclassify CBD within 90 days. The manufacturer will not be able to sell Epidiolex in the United States until the agency has performed this review.

The question at hand is whether the DEA will take a broad or narrow approach to this process: It might only reclassify the specific formulation used in Epidiolex, but it could reclassify CBD as a whole — or it could take a more dramatic step and reclassify cannabis itself.

Epidiolex highlights the importance of peer-reviewed research and drug development for cannabis products. This drug was approved to treat two severe seizure conditions, Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, where the CBD formulation appears to be highly effective as part of a larger medication routine.

These conditions, which onset in childhood, can cause incredibly disruptive daily seizures that increase the risk of intellectual, cognitive and developmental disabilities — and Epidiolex is the first officially approved medication for Dravet syndrome.

The FDA — and doctors — stress that there’s a big difference between a drug like Epidiolex and CBD formulations you obtain at a dispensary or over the internet. Like other pharmaceuticals, the drug produced in highly controlled and regulated conditions, which deliver extremely consistent dosing and don’t contain impurities.

While the FDA may have approved this drug, the agency still frowns upon “the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with serious, unproven medical claims. Marketing unapproved products, with uncertain dosages and formulations can keep patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases.”

Many medical cannabis patients say that they experience relief from a variety of products, including cannabis flowers for smoking, oils and creams, and ingestible formulations. A growing number of states have legalized marijuana for medical consumption and established regulatory frameworks to protect patients — including rules regarding product safety and purity, as well as testing to provide basic information about dosing and impurities. The FDA may disapprove of this, but until more regulated options are available, patients have limited choices.

There’s even more drug development in the pipeline using CBD and other cannabinoids to treat not just seizures, but also mental health conditions like PTSD and anxiety. For some patients with intractable, treatment-resistant neurological and mental health conditions, these drugs could radically improve quality of life — and they don’t contain THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis.

Meanwhile, Canada just legalized cannabis for recreational and medical use.

Take Action!

Join fellow Care2 activists who are calling on the DEA to take advantage of this opportunity to reschedule all cannabis products, reflecting accurate, up-to-date science about their medicinal potential and potential for abuse.

Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are some guidelines to help you get started and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.

 

Photo credit: Bob Doran

42 comments

Cindy S
Cindy S8 days ago

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Angela J
Angela J11 days ago

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Leo C
Leo C12 days ago

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Ruth S
Ruth S12 days ago

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Janis K
Janis K12 days ago

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan H12 days ago

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Winnie Adams
Winn A13 days ago

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Winnie Adams
Winn A13 days ago

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Brandy S
Brandy S13 days ago

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Callie R
Callie R13 days ago

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