It should come as no surprise that we are beginning to live in an overmedicated society. A 2017 survey has shown that more than half of Americans (55%) regularly take prescription medication. This is a worrying statistic, and in particular when we take into account the so-called ‘exploding opioid crisis’, with drug overdoses being the leading cause of death of people under 50.
Alternatives to overmedication
It is a natural consequence of this state of affairs that many consumers are turning to alternative remedies. People spend a lot of money on supplements, homeopathic or otherwise, but these often turn out to be snake oil remedies, with no research to support their often-exaggerated claims.
But cannabidiol (CBD) products have had a surge of studies over the past few years. Much of this research suggests that CBD can help with many conditions. These range from everyday aches and pains, to more serious and debilitating trauma like post-traumatic stress disorder. Besides having actual evidence to support the claims linked to it, evidence so far suggests that CBD also has very few to no side effects, and doesn’t produce a psychoactive ‘high’ like other cannabinoids.
FDA’s seal of approval
On June 25, 2018, the US Federal Drug and Food Administration (FDA) approved the very first cannabis-based drug, Epidiolex.
This drug, which contains the CBD compound, treats serious forms of childhood epilepsy. But because it stems from a forbidden substance, it is still listed as a Schedule I drug with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” In order for pharmaceutical companies to be able to sell it as other drugs, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) need to change how it classifies cannabidiol.
According to Informa Pharma Intelligence analyst Stephanie Yip and GW Pharmaceuticals, Epidiolex’s manufacturer, it seems that the DEA will be reclassifying CBD within the following three months.
They will then reclassify CBD, most likely, a Schedule IV or Schedule V compound, which are the same categories that anti-seizure and anxiolytic drugs, like Klonopin and Xanax, belong to.
Next steps for CBD
The FDA decision is already making waves within the pharmaceutical community. Rite Aid pharmacies have said that they’re already willing to fill in prescriptions for Epidiolex, which they say will most probably be available in their branches by fall. It is unlikely that this will also be the case for dispensaries because only retailers that have a valid pharmaceutical license can sell drugs that the FDA has approved.
GW Pharmaceuticals, in the meantime, is looking into other drugs that are stemming from CBD, aiming to treat other epilepsy forms, as well as types of schizophrenia and brain cancer. Stephen Schultz, who is the company’s vice president of investor relations, said that it this step was “an exciting and historic approval.”
Ms Yip, in a statement, also said: “This approval is definitely going to encourage other companies to investigate compounds for different diseases, from pain to Alzheimer’s to multiple sclerosis to Tourettes’. Basically a whole spectrum of diseases.”