GW Pharmaceuticals has announced successful trials of its drug Epidiolex, a cannabidiol-based compound for treating patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a form of childhood epilepsy.
Because cannabis stocks appear to be the most promising new commodity in U.S. markets, investors are jumping at the opportunity of holding shares of potentially revolutionary drugs such as Epidiolex. British company GW Pharmaceuticals is listed under Nasdaq, and since 25 states including Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana at least partially, analysts believe that the legal bud industry will reach over $6.7 billion in revenue at the end of 2016.
Treating child epilepsy with pot
Abbreviated as LGS, the Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome is present in children aged 3 to 5 and is often caused by brain malformation or injury, including those related to central nervous system alterations. In many cases, the cause of the disease is never determined. Children suffering from LGS usually have reduced cognitive abilities and behavioral issues. According to GWPH, more than 30,000 patients were suffering from LGS in the U.S. as of 2016.
The clinical trials included 225 patients aged 2 to 55, known to be resistant to typical epilepsy drugs. They participated in a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. The average age of participants was 16 years old, as only a third were older than 18. Researchers examined the participants for four weeks. Patients taking 20mg of Epidiolex had 42 percent lesser seizures compared to those taking a placebo. Patients taking 10mg of the drug had 37 percent lesser seizures in comparison with the control group.
84 percent of the patients taking the drug reported side effects, of which 89 percent classified them as mild or moderated. On the other hand, 72 percent of patients taking the placebo also reported suffering from side effects. The most common side effects of Epidiolex were somnolence, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Is this a precedent for the legalization of marijuana?
Although the results appear promising and the market is on a steady rise, the USDA still has to yield its approval to GWPH for distribution. It has been announced that GWPH aims to submit a New Drug Application to the USDA in early 2017, and if it were to pass, Epidiolex would become the first legal drug to contain cannabis.
The approval of Epidiolex does not imply the legalization of marijuana, but the sentiment from creditors and shareholders shows a great interest in the medical benefits of the plant-based drug.
Having the FDA approve a drug that is primarily derived from cannabis is another step toward the legalization of marijuana, even if the U.S. government has not yet acknowledged its medical benefits.
Just as GW Pharmaceuticals announced its successful trials, it held a conference for analysts and investors to discuss the results and open trade offers.
“We feel a tremendous sense of urgency to stop seizures, and believe that the pursuit of new therapies offers hope to individuals who have no currently available therapy to effectively stop their seizures,” stated Philip Gattone, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation, regarding the development of Epidiolex.