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The First FDA-Approved Cannabis-Derived Drug Is Available for Prescription in the US

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

It’s here. A legal cannabis prescription drug is now on the market in America. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it only for treating two forms of severe childhood epilepsy, Quartz noted that doctors most likely will also prescribe it “off label” for other conditions.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) gave the drug a Schedule V classification a couple months ago — meaning it’s a controlled substance with real medical uses — while all other cannabis-derived drugs remain on the Schedule 1 list, defined as having “no medical use and high potential for abuse.”

The irony of this is that the same active ingredients in this drug, manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals and called Epidiolex, have different DEA classifications. In short, if you have a prescription for Epidiolex — which premarketing reports say will cost more than $30,000 a year — the ingredients have healing, medicinal properties. But if they don’t come from GW, the same ingredients have no medical use. Talk about warped thinking!

Of course, the official argument is that cannabidiol (CBD) is only good if it’s the “purified” form delivered in a prescription. But still, the real concern here is that the drug industry has miraculously managed to turn something that people have been using for millennia in its natural form into a prescription drug.

The list of medical benefits that cannabis offers is long. Aside from being a good substitute for dangerous pain medications like opioids, it’s also effective for treating autism, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Crohn’s, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s and more. It even has exciting, promising research indicating it can act as a natural chemotherapy agent.

You would think that, given all these uses and given the history of its successes, CBD would be something that the DEA would have removed from the Schedule 1 list completely years ago. But instead, true to form, drug companies get to call the shots and line their pockets while anybody who doesn’t conform with a GW Pharmaceuticals prescription is a criminal.

As expected, with its approval of Epidiolex, the FDA increased its scrutiny of companies making natural CBD extracts, starting out by citing four Colorado businesses with warning letters for making "illegally unsubstantiated health claims" on their CBD products. Did I say that GW Pharmaceuticals had first tried to control the CBD industry by trying to influence legislation in individual states like North Dakota?

The point is, medical cannabis on its own has such a wide range of successful treatments for serious ailments that the drug industry, always looking for a cash cow, has now successfully won the first round in a fight to control the marijuana-derived CBD industry. This means that the only real winners here are GW Pharmaceuticals and whatever drug companies manage to get similar products approved, while you, the consumers, suffer. Oh — and your pocketbook will take a hit, too, if you can afford that $30,000 a year should your insurance decide not to cover it.

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