Epidyolex will be available for British epilepsy sufferers from Jan. 6 after the government fast-tracked it into the National Health Service.
It will be the first medicinal cannabis product that doctors can prescribe to patients after the UK legalized medical marijuana in October 2018. The government struck a deal last month with producer GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: GWPH) to bring down the price of Epidyolex.
It was previously deemed too expensive for the NHS to fund, but the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is now happy for doctors to prescribe it for anyone suffering from two forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes.
Another drug produced by GW Pharma, Sativex, was also given the green light by NICE. Sativex is a spray containing CBD and THC, to multiple sclerosis patients, while Epidyolex is an oral CBD solution.
The product is registered as Epidiolex in the U.S., where it is the only medical marijuana product to gain FDA approval. It has also received the thumbs-up from the European Union.
NHS England has announced that it will fast-track Epidyolex so that patients can start receiving it in two weeks’ time. “Thousands of people, including children, will now have access to this treatment, which has the potential to make a real difference,” said NHS chief executive Simon Stevens.
Campaigners welcomed the news, but some warned that it is too little, too late. A group called Epilepsy Action said that Epidyolex is not a silver bullet and it implored the government to collect more robust evidence on cannabis-based medicines.
To that end, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has now written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to provide a framework for the assessment of the impact of rescheduling cannabis-based products for medicinal use. Patel’s predecessor, Sajid Javid, who is now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, asked it to conduct a longer-term review of cannabis-based medicines, and it has pledged to provide a detailed report by November 2020.
GW Pharma shares have been on a steady downward trend since it reported its Q3 earnings in November and it is now trading at around $105 per share, down from an all time high of $196. Investors may see upside in the stock now that it is gearing up to start selling Epidyolex in Europe in 2020.