First cannabis-based medicine approved by FDA arrives in the U.S.

For the first time, a marijuana-based medicine approved by federal regulators is available for prescription in the United States.

The medicine, called Epidiolex, is used to treat seizures related to Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, two forms of epilepsy, which is a neurological disorder, according to a news release.

“Because these patients have historically not responded well to available seizure medications, there has been a dire need for new therapies that aim to reduce the frequency and impact of seizures,” said Justin Gover, chief executive officer of GW Pharmaceuticals, the United Kingdom-based company that developed the drug, in a statement.

The oral medication was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June. It is made using plant-derived cannabidiol, which lacks the high associated with marijuana.

Epidiolex, when added to other anti-epileptic treatments, reduced the frequency of seizures in patients during clinical trials, according to GW Pharmaceuticals.

“It is quite similar to some of the other medicines out there,” said Dr. Charuta Joshi, director of regional neurology services at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She was a principal investigator on clinical trials involving Epidiolex.

Joshi, who said she plans to prescribe the drug to patients in Colorado, said Epidiolex won’t be readily available in all pharmacies. Instead, it will be stocked by specialty pharmacies.

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Author: Jessica Seaman
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