Chalk up another victory for those who follow facts and scientific evidence, as opposed to unfounded theories and archaic presumptions. Yet another high profile name has joined the ranks of those already supporting widespread medicinal cannabis use – this time from right here in the United Kingdom.
It’s not as if Great Britain is really at the forefront of this kind of research, but still…progress is progress.
In this instance, the manufacturer of a new type of cannabis oil has said that their product has proved effective in treating a rare type of epilepsy. Based in London, GW Pharmaceuticals announced on Monday this week that an oil the company has been working on for some time has so far shown remarkable promise in tests.
They are looking to create a drug based on extracts of cannabis plants which have been specifically engineered to produce much lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and a much higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD) the normal. The drug they are working on – which they have named Epidiolex – will therefore be likewise extremely low in THC with a much higher concentration of CBD. Given that it is the THC concentration in cannabis products that determines how high the user will get, one of the primary objectives of Epidiolex is to produce medicinal cannabis products that work without getting the patient high.
“Between the plant itself and the processing steps which are being taken, the product ends up being pure CBD,” explained Justin Gower, chief executive of GW Pharmaceuticals.
To date, tests of the drug carried out on patients with a rare form of epilepsy have apparently brought back extremely reassuring results. In the most recent study, 85 patients were provided with placebos while a third of 86 were provided with controlled doses of Epidiolex. According to the company, seizure rates among those taking Epidiolex were reduced by impressive 44%, more than double the improvement among those who were only given placebos.
GW Pharmaceuticals has openly admitted however that for the time being, Epidiolex has the potential to cause a variety of side effects. Though generally mild and temporary in nature, some of those taking the drug reported having a decreased appetite, upset stomach, mild nausea and some sleeplessness.
Generally speaking, the medical community in general has responded extremely positively to the progress GW Pharmaceuticals has made in bringing about an effective treatment for a rare yet life threatening condition.
“From a physician’s perspective, the positive outcome in this trial of Epidiolex in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome is very exciting. Lennox Gastaut syndrome begins in early childhood, is particularly difficult to treat, and the vast majority of patients do not obtain an adequate response from existing therapies,” commented Linda Laux, Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Centre at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and one of the lead researchers involved in the latest clinical trial.
“These data show that Epidiolex has the potential to provide a robust and clinically meaningful reduction in seizures in this highly treatment-resistant population together with an acceptable safety and tolerability profile, which is consistent with my previous clinical experience with Epidiolex.”
The form of epilepsy GW Pharmaceuticals has been focusing on with Epidiolex is known as Dravet syndrome, which is more common among children than adults and is known to affect around 6,000 children in the United States. Advocates argue that these are exactly the kinds of conditions that should prompt authorities on both sides of the Atlantic to rethink counterproductive and potentially harmful attitudes to the restriction of medical marijuana research.