Amid a nationwide questioning of restrictive federal cannabis laws a federal agency, the Food and Drug Administration approved a cannabis-derived pharmaceutical Monday. The drug, Epidiolex, can be prescribed to treat two rare forms of epilepsy (Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes) which develop in childhood, but as the Associated Press reports, the drug is “not quite medical marijuana.”
The strawberry-flavored syrup contains a purified form of cannabidiol (CBD), a compound found in cannabis which has been used both by medical professionals and in homeopathic settings to treat epilepsy for years.
This is the first prescription drug made from cannabis which could soon be available on the U.S. market. Other forms of medical marijuana in the United States are technically only recommended by doctors in states with medical marijuana programs, and are not recognized as legal by the federal government.
The FDA has also previously approved synthetic versions of cannabinoids for medical use.
The company responsible for the drug is GW Pharmaceuticals, the drug company which has made the most headlines for its research and progress in medical marijuana. The release of the drug comes after a study of its effects on more than 500 children and adults with severe epilepsy. The drug is manufactured in the United Kingdom
The FDA still offers the caveat that they find Epidiolex is effective in treating epilepsy in combination with other more traditional pharmaceuticals.
“I’m really happy we have a product that will be much cleaner and one that I know what it is,” Ellaine Wirrell, director of the program for childhood epilepsy at the Mayo Clinic told the AP. “In the artisanal products there’s often a huge variation in doses from bottle to bottle depending on where you get it.”
According to the associated press, the drug is accompanied by certain side effects, which by the way are not consistent with using CBD by itself, including “diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and sleep problems.”
Epidiolex isn’t ready for the market yet. Even with the FDA seal of approval, the Drug Enforcement Administration would still have to reschedule CBD as a drug with federally recognized medical value.