The first prescription drug ever approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which is derived from marijuana officially became available on Thursday.
The FDA approved Epidiolex several months ago. The drug is designed to be used in treating a pair of rare and serious forms of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, and is the first drug ever produced for treatment of the latter.
Epidiolex includes the compound cannabidiol, also called CBD, which is found in both marijuana and hemp.
“We are delighted to announce that Epidiolex is now available by physician prescription as a new treatment option for patients with LGS and Dravet syndrome, two of the most difficult-to-treat forms of childhood-onset epilepsy,” said Justin Gover, Chief Executive Officer of GW Pharmaceuticals, the company that developed the drug, in a statement.
Even though CBD is extracted from marijuana sativa plants, this compound does not produce the high which is commonly associated with marijuana since it lacks the psychoactive agent THC.
CBD is already widely available in oil form across the U.S. and many within the marijuana industry often classify it as being legal in all fifty states, provided that it contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, which categorically allows it to be treated as a hemp product and not marijuana.
This general rule regarding the legality of CBD technically only applies if it has been derived from hemp that was grown under a state pilot program or for academic research, as outlined in the 2014 Farm Bill, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration still maintains that products containing CBD are illegal to possess and use.