GW Pharmaceuticals has revealed the cost of Epidiolex, the first cannabis-based medication that has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. According to the drug maker, Epidiolex would cost each patient an average of $32,000 per year.
British-based GW Pharmaceuticals made the revelation on a call with investors last week.
Treatment for rare form of epilepsy
Epidiolex has been designed as treatment for two rare forms of childhood epilepsy: Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. These two medical conditions are characterized by frequent and hard-to-treat seizures.
The medication uses cannabidiol (CBD) and does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a psychoactive chemical component found in cannabis and is what creates the high, while CBD is not.
The price of Epidiolex may seem exorbitant considering that a bottle of CBD oil costs only around $30. However, GW CEO Justin Gover said that this price is in line with other brand-name epilepsy drugs.
According to Gover, they wanted to make sure that they price Epidiolex in such a way that the means to access it would be consistent with other branded epilepsy drugs that patients are already using.
Julian Gangolli, who leads GW Pharmaceuticals’ commercialization efforts in the U.S., added that the price point for Epidiolex is also largely based on feedback from insurance companies. He pointed out that the figure is even on the lower end of the price projected by analysts back in 2016. It can be recalled that analysts estimated Epidiolex to cost between $30,000 to $60,000 per year.
Wait time for Epidiolex
As for the wait time for a patient to receive Epidiolex, Gangolli said he expects it to be three weeks, on average, after a clinician’s prescription is obtained.
It should be noted, however, that before any prescriptions for Epidiolex are written, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) must first reschedule CBD. CBD is currently classified as a Schedule I substance, which means that it is prohibited, is not considered to have any medical benefits, and is deemed to have a high potential for abuse.
Since Epidiolex was approved by the FDA on June 25, the DEA had 90 days to reclassify it as a Schedule II, III, IV, or V substance.
Patients may not be able to afford it
Many people are expecting that patients would turn to less expensive sources of CBD due to the steep price of Epidiolex. However, researchers warned against this, saying that CBD from other sources may be hard to verify. They said it would be impossible to know for sure that the product is actually pharmaceutical-grade CBD.
Gangolli explained, though, that Epidiolex could cost substantially cheaper compared to CBD products sold in the dispensary.