Though marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, nine states and Washington, DC, have legalized weed, with several more pushing for legislative approval. Whether it’s a cause or effect of that growing government leniency, people now have better knowledge of the substance and its components and derivatives: Cannabidiol (more commonly known as CBD), for example, has become an increasingly buzzy wellness ingredient that’s popped up in everything from lotions to snacks and beauty products. Back in June, the FDA officially just approved a medication that contains the cannabis-derived ingredient for the first time. And now, Fast Company reports that the prescription drug can be filled in all 50 states.
Back in April, the FDA’s advisory panel unanimously voted to recommend approval of Epidiolex, a prescription medication for epilepsy that has CBD derived from marijuana as an active ingredient—the first of its kind to become available in the US, according to The New York Times. Since then, only states where cannabis is legal have had access to the drug. But now, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has recategorized Epidiolex’s compounds so that GW Pharmaceuticals (the maker of the medication) can sell it nationwide.
A 2015 study in The New England Journal of Medicine looked at 120 children with epilepsy and found that CBD was able to decrease seizures by 23 percent compared to the children who took a placebo.
The drug will be prescribed to those two years of age or older who suffer from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome—the latter of which never had an FDA-approved treatment option until June. A 2015 study in The New England Journal of Medicine looked at 120 children with epilepsy and found that CBD was able to decrease seizures by 23 percent compared to the children who took a placebo.
Though CBD doesn’t contain THC, which is what causes the “high” associated with marijuana use, this still marks major step forward for public approval of the substance. In fact, the green light for the medication is crucial for the study of cannabis and CBD, since FDA approval means researchers can bypass the red tape—like Drug Enforcement Administration licenses—that has prohibited their work in the past, as Daniel Friedman, MD, associate professor of neurology at NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, told Refinery29. So now scientists can more freely attempt to learn how exactly CBD prevents seizures (currently, they only know that it does).
Considering all the benefits that CBD may provide, it’s to everyone’s benefit that the government is beginning to recognize its medicinal potential. This way, scientists can assess it thoroughly and potentially open doors to better care.
Originally published April 23, 2018; updated November 2, 2018.
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