If you’re a regular reader of The Marijuana Times, then you’re probably familiar with Epidiolex, the first-ever medicine derived from cannabis to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Now the maker of Epidiolex – pharmaceutical giant GW Pharmaceuticals – has announced what price they are planning to charge for the much-anticipated new CBD medicine.
During a conference call with investors last week, Julian Gangolli, who heads GW’s commercialization efforts in the United States, said the price would be about $32,500 per year per patient. Gangolli said that price puts GW in line with the costs of other drugs used to treat epilepsy, which will be Epidiolex’s main market.
GW now awaits a rescheduling of CBD from the Drug Enforcement Administration to – at worst – Schedule 2. The DEA has 90 days from June 25th (the day Epidiolex was approved by the FDA) to make the rescheduling move.
Of course, $32,500 a year seems prohibitive for a family that may be struggling to get by, especially if they don’t have insurance. A lack of competition in this area means GW can pretty much charge whatever they want, and they will get a lot of insurance companies to pay it. And while it’s true that CBD oil is widely available, many parents will be willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they can get the best treatment for their child who suffers with epilepsy.
The bottom line is that the only way these costs are going to come down is by more competition entering the marketplace – something the FDA approval process makes very difficult. In fact, the road to Epidiolex’s approval was a very long one. From National Public Radio:
The first prescription medication extracted from the marijuana plant is poised to land on pharmacists’ shelves this fall. Epidiolex, made from purified cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound found in the cannabis plant, is approved for two rare types of epilepsy.
Its journey to market was driven forward by one family’s quest to find a treatment for their son’s epilepsy.
Sam Vogelstein started having seizures in 2005, when he was four years old. He suffered for years with devastating seizures until his mother came across an article about CBD in 2011. His family’s search for CBD led to Sam becoming the first person to ever try Epidiolex. Now it has been approved by the FDA after numerous clinical trials.
To be fair, GW Pharmaceuticals spent a lot of time and resources getting Epidiolex to where it is today, so an attempt to recoup their investment is understandable. Hopefully the cost will not restrict access for children who could benefit from the medicine the most.